Gov. Corbett’s Budget Guts Education Funding To Reduce Corporate Taxes, Give Gas Frackers Free Rein

As we’ve been documenting, several conservative governors have been asking their middle- and lower-income to bear the brunt of deficit reduction in their states, while simultaneously cutting corporate taxes and handing out new tax breaks to favored industries. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) yesterday was the latest to unveil a budget that guts important investments in education to pay for tax cuts that the state can’t afford:

In education, Corbett’s budget would wipe out more than $550 million in basic funding — a 10 percent cut from this year — and an additional $260 million in grants to school districts for prekindergarten, full-day kindergarten, and class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade…All together, education advocates say, basic education funding would be reduced by more than $1 billion. […]

In other areas, the administration is proposing to resume the phaseout of the capital stock and franchise tax, a levy on companies incorporated in Pennsylvania.

“It’s even worse than I thought it would be,” Ron Cowell, a former state legislator and president of the Education Policy and Leadership Council, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Corbett also said that he will ask public employees to take pay and benefit cuts, and proposed a pay freeze for Pennsylvania’s teachers. But while asking his state’s public employees, teachers, and students to sacrifice, Corbett let one big Pennsylvania player off easy — the state’s gas “fracking” industry:

But there’s another group that’s tapping into big-time wealth — a buried treasure right here in Pennsylvania — that isn’t facing those kinds of tough decision that causes a pay-frozen schoolteacher’s family to cut back on groceries or cancel a weekend down the shore.

That would be the economically booming, mostly out-of-state natural gas companies and their multi-millionaire CEOs, who continue to rapidly expand their aggressive form of drilling known as hydrofracking, or simply “fracking,” across large swaths of upstate Pennsylvania. The companies take in hundreds of millions of dollars without paying any dedicated Pennsylvania tax — even as such levies are imposed in the other 14 of the top 15 gas-producing states, even in red-state bastions of free-market libertarianism like Dick Cheney’s native Wyoming and George W. Bush’s Texas.

Corbett’s budget also “articulates a philosophy of regulation that makes the hair stand up for many concerned about the burgeoning natural gas industry,” calling for expedited permits for the industry. Why isn’t Corbett asking the environmentally destructive fracking industry to pay its fair share? Maybe it’s that he received “a whopping $835,720 from oil-and-natural gas interests, including his largest single contributor — Marcellus Shale driller Terry Pegula and his wife Kim, who gave $305,000 to the Republican’s campaign.”


As Hypocrisy Watch PA summed up, “the juxtaposition was stunning in the budget plan [Corbett] released yesterday. It was a dream come true for Big Business — with hundreds of millions of dollars of tax breaks including a new 35% cut in one major corporate tax. Meanwhile, working families got hosed: programs to prevent foreclosure and make housing affordable were eliminated; K-12 public school cuts of over $1 billion…and unprecedented higher education cuts.”