Optimism about an economic rebound is not exactly out there among certified public accountants.
A new survey of CPAs, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants and its New Jersey counterpart, found that most believe conditions over the next year will be “about the same as they were one year ago.”
More than half of Pennsylvania CPAs rated the fiscal health of the U.S. government as poor, citing specific burdens to economic growth. Those included the federal deficit, the global economy, federal regulations and entitlement spending.
Fifty-three percent of respondents ranked pension funding for public employees as either their first or second choice preventing economic growth, the survey said. Rising health care costs, regulatory burdens, unfunded infrastructure costs and a declining tax base rounded out the top five.
Gov. Tom Corbett has said he plans to tackle the commonwealth's public pension crisis, which includes more than $41 billion in unfunded liabilities, and transportation infrastructure funding next year.
The poll also found that 46 percent of CPAs believe the influence of unions in pricing and contractor selection is the state regulation that most negatively affects Pennsylvania business.
“Through their work, CPAs have a unique insight into the business community,” Michael Colgan, PICPA's CEO and executive director, said in a statement. “This survey shows that our members have a lukewarm economic outlook, both for the state and nationally.”
More than 1,200 CPAs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey responded to the survey. Reforming state government pensions and benefits was ranked in the top three by 68 percent of PICPA respondents when asked what would provide Pennsylvania with greater economic expansion and job growth potential.
Proposed legislation during the 2011-12 legislative session focused on changing the future benefit structure for public employees to a 401(k)-style system.
Eighty-nine percent of PICPA respondents agreed or strongly agreed that either their company or their clients were re-evaluating employee benefit costs to look for savings.