Talk about hypocrisy. Governor Corbett has been running around the state telling everyone who will listen that Pennsylvania is broke. About our schools staggering under historic budget cuts he says, “we can’t give them money we don’t have.” And he asks, “So if I’m going to propose increasing money for education, who do we take it from?” [Delco Times, 5-30-12] Turns out he had that backwards. Now the governor is proposing to take money from education and give it to Big Oil.
Yesterday we learned that Governor Corbett intends to give Shell Oil Co. $1.675 BILLION of our taxpayer dollars to do business in Pennsylvania. [Post-Gazette, 6-4-12] He proposes handing out $67 million a year for twenty-five years starting in 2017, ensuring that our children and grandchildren will be paying this boondoggle for years to come. This is the man who cut $1 BILLION from our schools, claiming we don’t have money, but now finds he can hand out almost twice that much to his buddies in the fracking business. Does Gov. Corbett have no shame?
The natural gas industry has contributed $1.6 million to the governor’s campaign coffers. From 2009 to 2010, Shell Oil donated more than $300,000 to Gov. Corbett. [For excellent data on Big Oil campaign contributions, see MarcellusMoney.org.] That’s a pretty big payback: put in a few hundred thousand up front, get over a billion back. If only our kids had that kind of money to donate to political campaigns to buy their own schooling. The cruel irony here is that education is the one place where a little up front investment really does pay off in a big way, for both the individual student and society as a whole.
Now the issue is not so much that the governor sweetened a deal to get a company to build a factory in our state. That’s what governors do all the time. But we’re talking about handing away our children’s future so that Shell will build a petrochemical facility here in Southwest Pennsylvania to process the natural gas that will be extracted – from here in Southwest Pennsylvania. Are we really to believe that Shell needed an extra $1.6 BILLION to be convinced that they ought to process the stuff coming out of the ground in a nearby plant?
Even taxpayers who are not horrified by the fracking process should be livid at what that $1.6 BILLION will actually buy us. That shiny new Shell plant is estimated to employ up to 10,000 people with several hundred full-time employees eventually operating the factory. [Post-Gazette, 6-4-12] Sounds nice until you consider that Pennsylvania schools eliminated or left vacant over 14,000 jobs last year alone, with thousands more teachers receiving pink slips this spring. [PASA & PASBO Sept. 2011 report]
Seems to me we could have kept our money in our public school system and kept real people employed right now. These are well-educated professionals, key members of our communities, and critical people in the lives of our children. Governor Corbett has slashed these valuable jobs that benefit our students and society now, in favor of potentially creating fewer jobs in the future, at enormous public expense.
That’s not fiscally conservative or protecting Pennsylvania’s best interests. The only one benefiting here appears to be Big Oil. As Governor Corbett continues to de-fund public schools, is he planning to have Shell educate our children?