Plus, it can’t improve the guv’s relationship with the Legislature that he has, as is his wont, played this so close to the vest that it became known only after the online news service Capitolwire.com broke the story Monday.
Which leads to two points: Maybe there’s a case to be made for the tax breaks Corbett is offering Shell; and, if so, he should be out front making it.
Instead, on Tuesday he went on a local Harrisburg radio talk show to offer what’s believed to be his first public comment on the plan.
"My whole goal is to grow good, sustaining jobs for the people of Pennsylvania, not just today but for decades to come," Corbett said, according to an Associated Press report.
Few could argue against such a goal.
But if you’re pushing the largest government/business deal in the commonwealth’s history, you’d think there’d be a little more offered to the people who’ll pay for it.
The plan is to give Shell $66 million a year in tax breaks for 25 years starting in 2017 if it builds a petrochemical "cracker" plant on 300 acres near Monaca, Beaver County, northwest of Pittsburgh.
This is after the state offered tens of millions of dollars in incentives to get Shell to agree to put the plant in Pennsylvania instead of Ohio or West Virginia.
Such plants process natural-gas compounds from shale into other products, such as plastics, packaging materials, clothing, carpeting and diapers.
While Corbett was offering his goal to talk radio, I had a chat with state Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser, who offered an actual argument.
In an interview before Meuser was to address a meeting of the Pennsylvania Society of Public Accountants — an interview that had to happen before since no one would be awake after — Meuser even made some sense.
When asked if the Shell plan flies in the face of Republican philosophy of less government, more free market, he said, "You’ve got to let the market decide, but you also have to be competitive…and the math adds up; it will deliver an excellent return on investment."
He contends that over months of meetings, some of which he attended, the state came up with a "performance-based" package that pays out only if Shell’s plant is built and delivers the "billions in business activity" projected along with 10,000 to 20,000 jobs, the latter an estimate he called modest.
Construction is expected to begin in about two years.
When asked about the wisdom of giving one of the world’s richest corporations anything, he said that "we’re not a place with a competitive edge. … The prices of doing business in Pennsylvania are high," and that the plant will bring in other businesses making multiple products because of it, meaning even more jobs.
If he’s right, then I understand Corbett’s plan of fueling job creation for long-term growth.
But I don’t understand why the guv doesn’t make a forceful, public case for it, unless it really is just a corporate giveaway. n
For recent columns, go to philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at philly.com/BaerGrowls.