It became apparent this past week where Gov. Tom Corbett will aim his biggest political cannons in what has become his desperate bid to get re-elected.
The main salvos target U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, a Democrat from Montgomery County who is seen as a likely challenger to Corbett in next year's election.
A press release from the Tom Corbett for Governor Campaign attacked what it said was a tax increase being proposed by Schwartz. "If this is a preview of Allyson Schwartz's tax and spend agenda, Pennsylvanians better hide their wallets," the release said.
The problem with that claim is that it focuses on a tax favored by Schwartz that would not hit regular Pennsylvanians, but would force wealthy gas industry robber barons from places like Texas to pay a gas extraction tax they already must pay in every major gas-producing state — except Pennsylvania.
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I generally avoid writing about partisan contests because I have nothing but contempt for the wholly corrupt two-party monopoly. Corbett's latest missive, however, is so offensive it cannot be ignored.
"Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz's proposal to drastically increase taxes on the shale gas industry will cost Pennsylvanians good-paying, middle class jobs by forcing the industry to relocate to more business and energy friendly states," the Corbett campaign bellowed.
"Gov. Corbett has consistently stood with the middle class in his efforts to create jobs, grow our economy and responsibly use our natural resources while protecting the environment," the press release said. "Pennsylvania is fortunate enough to have a booming natural gas industry to help lead the charge in lowering energy costs … and creating over 130,000 new opportunities for Pennsylvanians to return to work."
Oh, really? Let's start with Corbett's marvelous job-creation program.
As I reported in May, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed Pennsylvania was in seventh place in the nation regarding job growth when Corbett took office in 2011. By this year, the state was in 49th place, surpassing only Wyoming, where job growth depends partly on the number of cowpokes giddyapping around.
The best job growth was in Texas, perhaps thanks in part to Corbett's lavish assistance to the industrial interests there. Texas had an increase of 322,600 jobs while Pennsylvania, under Corbett, lost 1,800. In the meantime, Corbett chopped around $1 billion in funding for education.
Also in the meantime, Corbett engineered the Marcellus Shale Law, which provided for meager "impact fees" instead of a meaningful "severance tax" on gas extractions (the approach favored by Schwartz).
That law also forced municipalities to allow the Texas gas industry robber barons to drill in all zoning areas, even residential, using the environmentally devastating hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process.
And don't think the robber barons were not grateful. They filled Corbett's coffers with more than $2 million in so-called political campaign contributions.
Schwartz, by the way, is a strong supporter of the gas industry if it is regulated and taxed properly, as am I. So how much money did the gas industry robber barons send her way? According to Pennsylvania Common Cause, it was $5,500 during the same period.
No other politicians come close to Corbett, but the national Common Cause organization said others across the nation also received big contributions from fracking interests, including western Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy ($275,499) and Sen. Pat Toomey, who is from the Lehigh Valley ($160,750).
The Schwartz proposal for a 5 percent gas severance tax indeed would have a significant impact.
The Corbett campaign was responding to a report, released Wednesday by Schwartz, that said such a tax would have raised $612 million in the state's 2013-14 budget year alone, and that would increase to more than $2 billion a year a decade from now.
Would that, as Corbett claims, chase gas-drilling jobs out of Pennsylvania? Where would they go? To West Virginia, which also has a 5 percent severance tax? To Oklahoma, where it's 7 percent, or maybe to Texas, where it's 7.5 percent?