MONONGAHELA – Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget for next year is a solid path to increasing jobs, revenues and spending for education, as well as providing tax reform, his revenue secretary said Tuesday.
“If there are any holes in the plan, I can’t find them,” Secretary of Revenue Dan Meuser said while outlining Corbett’s 2013-14 state budget plan at a Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
The job growth hinges on the sustainability of the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom central to Washington County and securing the proposed and coveted Shell Oil Co. petrochemical “cracker” facility in Beaver County.
The cracker plant, Meuser said, would create “thousands and thousand of jobs,” which would increase the state’s revenues through the personal income tax.
“It creates a cluster of manufacturing around it to utilize local resources,” he said.
The impact from the gas industry has resulted in there being 29,811 such core jobs in Pennsylvania in the first quarter of 2012, reflecting a huge increase from the previous quarter. The industry also resulted in the collection of $303 million in business taxes last year, Meuser said at the meeting in Mon Valley Hospital’s conference center.
Corbett’s three main goals are creating a stable and reliable financial future for Pennsylvania, creating jobs and having a trained and educated workforce, he said.
When Corbett entered office, his administration was faced with a $3.2 billion deficit, and as a result of tax reforms during the past two years and other initiatives, his proposed budget would include a $232,000 surplus by June 2014, said Meuser.
“Corbett’s proposal keeps spending in line with revenues,” he said.
One of the major reforms Corbett is pushing involves selling the state-owned liquor stores and overhauling the state pension benefits program, a move that would offer new state employees a 401(k) retirement plan, rather than a defined-benefits program.
“It’s no one’s fault,” Meuser said of the state employee pension crisis. “We have to recognize we have a problem.”
Meanwhile, he said, Corbett is still pushing to hire a private company to run the state lottery, a move that would require the winning bidder to pay $200 million in security fees up front.
Corbett’s proposal also would increase basic education funding by $5.5 billion and include $90 million to local school districts.