Pennsylvania has everything it needs to attract more businesses, with one exception.
The missing piece is getting state spending under control, Gov. Tom Corbett told nearly 700 people Monday at a dinner held by the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry in the Sovereign Performing Arts Center.
He said he’s working on that by continuing to make budget cuts and refusing to raise taxes.
“We’re going to see Pennsylvania take off, because we have location,” Corbett said. “We have a work ethic. We have energy.
“We can do it. We can do it together.”
The budget – the second under his watch – is getting closer to where it needs to be, but the process is difficult because the state has a finite amount of money and an almost infinite number of requests for it, he said.
“What’s been lost on many people, and I mean people across the aisles, is all that money is yours,” Corbett said. “I was elected to be the steward of the taxpayers. We will spend no more than we receive in revenue.”
To avoid cuts last year, the state would have had to raise the average family’s taxes by $920 a year, Corbett said. More than $300 would have to be added on top of that this year.
“If we control taxes and spending, you have more money to go out and build your companies,” he said. “Entrepreneurs can grow their companies.”
The state already is seeing some new businesses coming in, with one energy company planning to create 10,000 construction jobs for five years, Corbett said.
That will decrease unemployment and grow the economy, he said.
“Power and energy are one of your highest costs,” Corbett said. “The more energy we get, the more jobs we’re going to get. That’s one of the reasons we’re developing the natural gas industry, which is going to spin off to other industries.”
One spending area that will receive his attention next year is the pension fund for school and state government employees, Corbett said. The state’s contribution for 2012-13 will be $1.6 billion, and will rise to $4.3 billion by 2016-17, he said.
“We’re making the effort because I have a brand new grandson,” Corbett said. “I want him and your grandchildren and their grandchildren to have the Pennsylvania we had. If we continue to tax and spend instead of build and save, they’re not going to have that. They’re going to be in Virginia or Texas.”
Corbett avoided the crowd outside the arts center protesting cuts in education funding by using a rear entrance, and then going straight to a private reception.
During his speech, he blamed the cuts on the federal government.
“We received money from Washington,” Corbett said. “It was called stimulus money. That money was put into the budget. It was put into education. The money disappeared. The federal government said it was one-time money, and for the first time when they said it was one-time money they meant it.
“We had to reduce spending.”
The proposal for the next fiscal year has the highest spending for basic education in the state’s history, and just about every school district would get an increase, Corbett said.
Education receives the largest share of the state budget, at 43.3 percent of the total, he said.
“One of the things I hear repeatedly is that Tom Corbett doesn’t love education; it’s not a priority for him,” he said. “Would you agree that what you spend the most money on is your priority? The No. 1 priority in the budget is education.”