Morning Must Reads: Asset Tests Are For Poor People Not Shell Oil

Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News reviews a proposal from Governor Tom Corbett to give Shell Oil even more money for doing something they are already planning to do anyway.

They are the world's second largest corporation by revenue, and last year Royal Dutch Shell made an astronomical $31 billion in profits - more than triple what the global oil giant was earning just two years earlier.

But Gov. Corbett apparently doesn't think the hard-earned cash you fork over every time you pull into a Shell station is enough.

He wants to give them your tax dollars, too - perhaps as much as about $1.7 billion over the next 25 years.

It would actually be too kind to call Corbett's corporate-welfare scheme involving Shell's planned ethane-cracking plant on Pennsylvania's far western border a tax break - because the deal has already won state approval to avoid taxes, in a specially created Keystone Opportunity Zone. So this proposed new deal — which was being negotiated in secret until long-time Harrisburg journalist Pete DeCoursey broke the news Monday — is essentially just a straight-up cash giveaway to Big Oil.

For a facility it is already planning to build here.

In the state where it arguably would have been built anyway without a single dollar of tax incentives, since this is where ethane wells are already being drilled.

Did I mention that this is the same Tom Corbett who wants struggling unemployed folks getting food stamps to prove they don't have money stashed away, whose steep 2011 cuts to school funding deeply exacerbated an education crisis that's risking everything from school plays in Upper Darby to the janitor who cleans your son's classroom here in Philadelphia? I guess janitors didn't realize the threshold to get Corbett's attention is $31 billion.

"It's essentially a big giveaway of money we didn't have, to attract a company we were already getting," said Sharon Ward, the director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a progressive think tank, who called the proposal "unprecedented."

On the subject of priorities, the Patriot-News Editorial Board endorses spending more money on education and human services.

And Joseph Goldberg, the Pennsylvania State Chair of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, has a letter in the Patriot urging lawmakers to vote against House Bill 2191, which would legalize triple-digit annual interest rates on payday loans.

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