MONACA (KDKA) — Three senior Cabinet officials of the Corbett Administration joined a bi-partisan group of lawmakers to promote efforts to bring the shell oil cracker facility to a site in Beaver County.

“The commonwealth now has a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring a project to Pennsylvania that will be the single largest industrial investment in the state in more than a generation,” Alan Walker, Secretary of Community & Economic Development, told the group.

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State officials say that Governor Corbett’s $66 million a year tax credit is designed to support the development of manufacturing companies that will use the ethane produced at the Shell cracker plant.

Local and state officials say that this tax credit proposal is an essential part of the deal – a deal that would keep Shell in Beaver County and attract thousands of jobs to this region.

“Not a few hundred jobs,” added Julia Hearthway, Secretary of Labor & Industry. “Not one company hiring 300 or 400 jobs, but thousands and thousands of jobs to Pennsylvania. This is an investment where the return on that investment is beyond anyone expectations.”

Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser insists that the tax credit, which won’t take effect until 2017, is really revenue neutral and possibly a net positive.

“The personal income tax generated by such jobs and the business income tax generated by such activity would nearly match, more likely exceed, the credit cap each year,” noted Meuser.

Former Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato — who once opposed Corbett for governor — said the state had to do whatever it could to attract Shell to the region.

“The cracker plant is a game changer for western Pennsylvania.”

Cabinet officials defended the tax credit.

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“The tax credit itself is something we put together to assure to provide as much assurance as possible and minimize risk as possible that the actual development would take place,” said Meuser.

Meuser says the tax credit idea was a response to Shell’s privately expressed concerns that natural gas feed stocks would be sent out of state instead of to the new cracker facility.

“We thought this was a beneficial way to do it, deliver a great return on investment.”

Beaver County Sen. Elder Vogel and Rep. Jim Christiana, both Republicans, have introduced similar bills to create that tax credit — and it has some labor support, too.

“The issue here is not tax credits. The issue here is jobs and good union-paying jobs,” said John DeFazio of the United Steelworkers of America.

Two local Democrats said they supported the tax credits — which won’t take effect until 2017 — even if they had issues with Corbett’s budget cuts.

“It’s going to be difficult because we are facing a budget that has some cuts in it. It’s going to be difficult times we have to make sure we separate the fact that this will not have an impact for several years,” noted PA Rep. Jarret Gibbons.

“The key is it’s 2017. That’s when it will have a fiscal impact on the budget, and I think that needs to be stressed. And hopefully and we are all optimistic the economy will continue to turn around,” added PA Rep. Rob Matzie.

Local legislators hope that this tax credit idea will be part of the governor’s final budget, a budget that is expected to be adopted in late June.

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Beaver County Welcomes New Shell Oil Cracker Plant (3/15/12)
Inside The Shell Oil Cracker Plant Deal (3/16/12)
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