HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Wednesday, the House Democratic Policy Committee unveiled efforts to fight corporate inflation and price gouging.
The committee held a hearing, “Ending Corporate Inflation,” followed by a press conference calling for support of legislation that seeks to crack down on larger companies. Democrats say some are maximizing profits at the cost of Pennsylvanians.
“When you have corporations, particularly these big oil companies that are making billions of dollars in profits, even one making $9 billion more than they made last year, it’s simply unacceptable,” said Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie).
Bizzarro says it’s less of a political issue and more of a system issue.
“This is a system design that allows big corporations to set the price and to charge whatever they want and legally price gouge consumers. We have to do something about it. We just can’t sit here idly and let these folks continue to raise prices and not be accountable,” said Bizzarro, who’s also a sponsor to one of the bills targeting corporate inflation.
Bizzarro and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) sponsored the End Gas Price Gouging Act. The. Legislation would prevent price increases within 24 hours of a previous increase, outlaw increases in times of emergency, and empower the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute gasoline price gouging.
“We’ve worked pretty hard on this bill to get the language right, to make sure that it is not partisan whatsoever. If anybody chooses not to support that or not have any conversations about that, they simply do not want to fix or address the problem at hand,” said Bizzarro.
Bizzarro and his fellow members of the policy committee said the bills are the best solution to the problem at hand and that it’s time for Republicans to get on board.
“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle can’t complain about what’s going on in Pennsylvania and what’s going on with prices, given that they’ve controlled the legislature for the last 30 years,” said Bizzarro. “They set the tone. They have the purse strings. They can repeal a gas tax, and certainly they have the numbers to get these bills moving,” Bizzarro added.
House Republicans say they are focused more on the root causes and less on corporate inflation. The House Republican Policy Committee recently held hearings on inflation and say price gouging is not the main issue.
“We didn’t hear any of that from any of the testifiers,” said Chairman Martin Causer (R-McKean/Potter/Cameron). “The message that we heard loud and clear was the fact that overspending and government infusion of stimulus dollars really is fueling a lot of this, along with challenges with the supply chain and the overall fact that government, in many ways, needs to get out of the way of what private industry is doing,” Causer added. “Private industry is being hamstrung right now by a lot of government regulation and government policies.”
Causer says efforts need to be focused on economic recovery, while helping struggling families put food on the table and pay for utilities.
“The crux of the hearings that we put together really focused on the fact that families are truly struggling. Looking at two areas: they’re struggling with the high cost of food and energy,” said Causer. “A pro-growth agenda so that we can get the economy moving again. We’re moving forward with policies that really seek to restrain government spending,” he added.
Causer says his caucus is open to working with Democrats to address the root cause of inflation in the Commonwealth.
“We’re looking to work with anybody that wants to work with us. If the talking point by some is just price gouging and corporate greed, I don’t think that’s the root cause of the problem. We want to work with folks that want to really address the issue,” said Causer.
Democrats are pushing to have their bills heard in the House Consumer Affairs Committee to get the conversation started. Aside from the End Gas Price Gouging Act, Democrats have also introduced:
The Stop Price Fixing Act: would enhance the ability of the Attorney General to prosecute individuals and businesses that collude to artificially raise prices on any good bought or sold in Pennsylvania.
The Pennsylvania Open Markets Act: would prohibit anti-competitive behavior to keep markets open and fair. In addition, the bill empowers the Attorney General to investigate companies that attempt to monopolize any part of the economy. It would also increases penalties for anti-trust violations.