Get our newsletters
Guest Opinion

Reward employers who contribute to workers’ 529 plans


We are both first-term state representatives — Paul Friel, a Democrat serving Chester County, and Kristin Marcell, a Republican representing Bucks County. Despite being “across the aisle” from each other, we discovered early on that we share many goals.

One of those goals is to cut through partisan roadblocks that get in the way of progress on meaningful legislation. Too often lawmakers get caught up in the “team sports” of politics, and when we need to score wins for “our side,” we lose focus on the job we were elected to do: improve the quality of life and opportunities for Pennsylvanians.

We, however, are committed to staying in conversation with our colleagues from across the state — Democratic and Republican alike — and our goal is simple: identify areas of common ground where we can work together on solutions and make real improvements for the people we serve.

Another mutual commitment we share is to enhance access to quality education. Having both served on a school board prior to our state house elections, we place high value on quality K-12 education and affordable college, career and technical education.

The affordability of higher education is a pressing issue statewide. For many, loan repayments are higher than monthly grocery bills, with the average college graduate under 40 paying more than $400 monthly toward student debt. In Pennsylvania, graduates face the third-highest student loan debt in the nation, with seven of the top 30 “high-debt colleges” located within our state.

One significant proposal we’ve jointly introduced to address student loan debt is HB1745, the 529 TAP Tax Credit. As prime sponsors of this legislation, we aim to foster a culture of saving for education by offering tax incentives to employers who make contributions to their employees’ 529 college savings accounts. This bipartisan initiative underscores our shared commitment to easing the financial burden of higher education.

The PA 529 program’s growing popularity and versatility — offering two savings plan options and covering various educational expenses — provides a strong foundation for this initiative.

Not only will our initiative facilitate employer support for employees and their families, it will also foster investment in our future workforce — which Pennsylvania is in dire need of. Right now, we need 61,000 more people with the right credentials and training to fill open jobs. And if nothing is done, that talent gap will increase to at least 218,000 unfilled jobs within a decade.

Investing in our workforce is crucial, and enabling business participation in this effort creates a tripartite benefit: for students and their families, employers and the commonwealth at large. It exemplifies the essence of bipartisanship — setting aside political divisions to focus on effective solutions that enhance the lives of our students, families and communities.

By committing to collaborative efforts, we can seize numerous opportunities for substantial, meaningful progress on the issues burdening Pennsylvanians. The 529 TAP Tax Credit, which passed the House unanimously last month, represents one such opportunity. We call on the Pa. Senate to pass this bill and increase the affordability of higher education for students across the commonwealth.

Pa. Rep. Kristin Marcell, R-178, represents Upper Southampton, Warwick, Wrightstown and a portion of Northampton Township. She’s a former Council Rock School Board member. Pa. Rep. Paul Friel, D-26, represents parts of Chester County. He’s a former Owen J. Roberts School Board member.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.