Revenue chief touts Corbett budget, energy industry

Perry Babb, president of Fleet Energy America in State College, is a prime example of how natural gas initiatives in Gov. Tom Corbett’s state budget proposal could help boost the local economy.

The governor’s budget plan includes tax incentives for those who use clean energy and create new clean energy-related jobs. Fleet Energy provides equipment to businesses designing and constructing compressed natural gas fueling stations.

Pennsylvania Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser spoke Thursday about the governor’s proposed budget during a Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County breakfast meeting at the Nittany Lion Inn.

In February, Corbett proposed a $71.8 billion 2014-15 budget, which Meuser said focuses on three main components: creating jobs, promoting education and implementing health care programs.

“First, it starts with putting things in financial order, allocating budgetary funds as effectively as possible, continuing to keep taxes low so job creators can be competitive and increase employment,” Meuser said.

By targeting investments like that of natural gas-related companies, jobs could be created and the economy would grow, Meuser said.

Expanding job training programs and continuing to reduce business taxes also are key ingredients, he said.

“The impact on Centre County is about job creation, keeping taxes low and impact regarding energy in the form of lower costs for families and creating jobs, and the transportation funding will bring millions to the state or to Centre County for construction jobs, contracting and, importantly, safety to bridges and roads, and improvement to the roads,” Meuser said.

Fleet Energy has partnered with Centre County’s Shale Gas Initiative and the Marcellus Shale Coalition to promote the use of compressed natural gas to fuel vehicles.

The company is working with Reps. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, and Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, to encourage legislation that would provide incentives to individuals and fleet operators who use CNG as transportation fuel.

Babb said that with the natural gas business comes a cycle of job growth that would provide workers with education and training, extra garages in the area for natural gas conversions, fueling stations, installation warehouses, finance teams and people who work to get grants and incentives for using clean energy.

State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, said that two of the most important items are education and transportation funding — both help establish future employment and job growth.

“A lot of it goes hand in hand with local job creation and growth,” he said. “With transportation, there are a lot of things people won’t notice with bridges and pot holes and other transportation issues, but some larger-scale projects make a much bigger impact.”

Two local road projects include widening U.S. Route 322 between Boalsburg and Potters Mills and revamping the Waddle Road interchange on Interstate 99 in Patton Township. Corman said work on both projects could begin by the end of the year.

“It has to the power to bring more people into the county and create business here and make things convenient to settle,” Corman said.