March 20, 2024
Sarah Gonski
Institute for Responsive Government

Pennsylvania’s Smart Solution: Refunding Permit Fees for Delays

In Pennsylvania, a groundbreaking proposal is gaining attention: refunding permitting fees if the state takes too long to issue permits. This simple idea, put forth by Governor Josh Shapiro, is an excellent way to make government more responsive to the needs of actual human beings.

Permitting delays cost time and money. The refund policy creates a powerful incentive for government agencies to streamline processes and prioritize efficiency. Knowing that delays could harm their bottom line, agencies are prompted to allocate resources more effectively and expedite reviews.

In its first six months, the policy has been wildly successful. The agency that issues permits to Pennsylvania developers has reduced its backlog for new permits by 41%, and many other professional licensing permits are taking less than half the time to receive than they did previously. No refunds have been issued.

Pennsylvania’s proposal represents a pragmatic approach to addressing bureaucratic inefficiencies, enhancing service delivery, and fostering trust in public institutions. As other states face similar challenges, they would do well to follow Pennsylvania’s lead.