Selling Shell

Despite Gov. Corbett's horrible start on selling his Shell deal to lawmakers and voters, there's a better-than-even chance he can get it done as part of a new state budget due July 1.

Corbett and the administration erred badly by not owning the proposal to grant Shell $1.7 billion worth of incentives to build a huge processing plant in Western PA.

The story broke as a corporate giveaway at a time the guv wants to cut funds for education, social services and more; it underscored his reputation for taking political contributions from energy companies (especially natural gas) then declining to tax them.

Even if there were confidentiality issues with Shell because of simultaneous plant-siting negotiations with other states, Corbett could have/should have rolled out the plan as a jobs project in process, using whatever details he could to start selling it.

Plus, even after the story was reported by the online news service and spread quickly as a gift to a corporate energy giant from a pro-business Republican, administration response was weak and unconvincing.

But now, with the budget deadline in sight, there is at least some effort to explain benefits of the proposal.

State Labor & Industry Secty. Julia Hearthway, for example, makes a case in Monday's Inky.

And the overall argument isn't bad: the tax credit (which, presumably needs to be locked in before Shell starts construction of the $4 billion plant) doesn't take effect for five years; denying it won't free up more money for this year's budget (or the next several) and could drive Shell to another state such as Ohio or West Virginia; the deal could mean tens of thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs, and the taxes from workers and businesses that spin off the project would in the long run outweigh the state's investment.

If Corbett lost (or looses) this potential project, media would excoriate him for laziness, ineptitude and short-sightedness. He already earned such hits for his initial handling of the Shell deal. Now he has a chance to rescue it -- and his woeful communications efforts.