It's not often that a City Paper article gets used in an attack ad against a Democrat, but that's what the state Republican Party did on behalf of District 47 state Senator Elder Vogel in two attack ads last week.
And Vogel's mailers, by taking Kim Villella's remarks out of context, exaggerate her opposition to a proposed Shell Cracker Plant in Beaver County.
One ad features the headline: “Kim Villella opposed efforts to bring jobs to Beaver County” a line attributed to CP's profile on Villella. Another line, “Kim Villella was clear in her opposition to efforts to bring the Shell 'Cracker' Plant to our area” was also attributed to CP. Another ad says Villella told City Paper: “opposed the state helping to bring the Shell 'Cracker' Plant to Beaver County.”
Villella never said she opposed the Shell plant. She did, however, voice opposition to the way Gov. Tom Corbett and the Republican-led legislature structured $1.7 billion in tax breaks meant to entice Shell to locate the plant to Beaver County. But she says the state gave up too much to get Shell and that tax incentives should have been tied to job growth and not gas production. (While the tax credits are meant to spur job growth in the region, Shell is not required to repay them if the projected jobs don't arrive.)
From the profile:
Villella strikes a similarly balanced tone on another hot-button issue: drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, which could have a huge economic impact on the district.
Industry supporters say the industry is bringing jobs and economic development, promises Villella says she too found compelling. "Most of my adult life I'd seen nothing but decline in this region, and I really thought this would be our way back," Villella says. But Gov. Tom Corbett, she says, "basically gave our store away," with a low tax rate on natural gas, and a $1.7 billion package of tax incentives to locate a new Shell "cracker plant" inside her district. The plant will convert ethane into a range of chemicals with industrial uses.
For a long-suffering district, opposing a potentially huge industry — Shell projects 400 to 600 jobs at the plant — is a risky political proposition. But "I'm a businessperson: I know when incentives need to be given to attract business," Villella says. "In this case, I just couldn't understand why we were giving it all away to an industry that had to come here if they wanted to get at those resources."
Villella says the state should tax gas production, not the number of wells, and direct proceeds to education funding, abolishing school property taxes for homeowners. And if Shell does get tax breaks, she adds, they should be paid out per permanent job.
For the record, Vogel's campaign declined our interview requests, and also failed to respond to written questions. The Vogel-Villella race is one of the most heavily contested in the state and, according to the website PoliticsPA, one that Democrats have targeted as a potential pick up.