WILKES-BARRE — State Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser said Friday that his boss has three primary goals — create investment, create jobs and increase revenue.
Meuser was talking about fellow Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who presumably will run for re-election in 2014 and who has come under fire for his fiscal policies that have seen cuts to education and the loss of thousands of jobs.
“Gov. Corbett has managed to get us out of a $4.2 billion deficit,” Meuser said. “He doesn’t respond to special interests. He doesn’t respond to political pressure. He looks at issues long-term and he is deliberate in making decisions.”
Meuser said fiscal discipline is the key to Corbett’s approach to spending.
Corbett, Meuser said, was exceptional in handing the negotiations with Royal Dutch Shell, the global oil company looking to build a petrochemical plant — referred to as a cracker plant — in Beaver County. If the deal happens, it would be the first facility of its type to be built in the Northeast, he said.
Officials at Procter & Gamble in Wyoming County have told him having a cracker plant so close would save the company $3 million per year, he said.
“The governor has handled this brilliantly,” he said. “We are close to signing an agreement.”
Meuser said Shell’s cracker plant would convert ethane from the Marcellus Shale formation into the building blocks for plastic products. Other spin-off industries would follow Shell to Pennsylvania, he said.
Corbett unveiled his $28.4 billion budget proposal in February with no tax increases. The budget will help businesses to create thousands of jobs in coming years, Meuser said. The budget must be approved by June 30.
Meuser told the luncheon crowd of about 60 people at the Pennsylvania Economy League’s Issues Forum at the Genetti Hotel and Conference Center that the governor has four major reform initiatives:
• Sell the state liquor system to invest in education.
• Modernize Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure.
• Overhaul the state pension systems.
• Comprehensive tax reform.
Meuser declined to discuss the governor’s failed attempt to revamp the lottery system and hire a British firm to manage it.
Meuser said Corbett, in partnership with the business community, will create a more competitive tax structure through:
• Elimination of the capital stock/foreign franchise tax.
• Reduction of the corporate net income tax.
• Increasing the cap on net operating loss deductions.
• Providing for like-kind exchanges and start-up business deductions.
• Repeal of the corporate loans tax.
• Tax code changes.
Meuser said the overall impact would result in 18,000 more jobs over the next 10 years, an increase in the state GDP of $2.8 billion by 2030, personal income growth by $1.9 billion by 2030 and more than $1 billion in new tax revenue through 2030.
Corbett, he said, wants to revitalize the state’s transportation infrastructure by lifting a cap on the wholesale fuel price levy. This would likely result in paying more at the gas pump by adding about 9 cents per gallon per year.
He said the governor favors an overhaul of the state’s debt-ridden pension program with a series of measures, including switching new employees into a 401(k)-style retirement investment plan by rolling back rates from 2.5 percent to 2 percent. It would not affect current retirees or the amount paid into the fund to date, he said.
“At the very least, we have to make the fund slightly less unaffordable,” he said.