PA House Beginning to Cave on Severance Tax? Maybe…

MDN has covered the ongoing budget debate in Pennsylvania for months. The PA Senate and House are controlled by Republican majorities–but not necessarily conservative majorities. The Republicans fell into a trap set by the Democrats. They passed a ~$32 billion budget with only enough revenue to pay for $30 billion–meaning there’s a $2 billion gap that needs to be filled. Instead of doing the adult thing–cut spending–they decided to allow more spending and figure out how to pay for it “later on.” Later on came, and of course pressure intensified to punish a single industry–natural gas–in order to make up the shortfall. At the end of July MDN brought you the sad news that Republicans in the Senate sold out and voted for a severance tax (see Traitorous PA Senate Republicans Pass Severance Tax Bill). Now the House remains. Will they sell out too? Under the leadership of Speaker Mike Turzai, we had hoped it would not happen. But a comment made yesterday by House Majority Leader Dave Reed has us wondering. Reed said higher taxes on energy sources used by homeowners, like natural gas, telephone, etc. (called a gross receipts tax) is going nowhere fast. However, as for a Marcellus Shale severance tax, Reed indicated they may deal. Although not an exact quote, one news source said Reed expressed this sentiment in his remarks yesterday: “A tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction, which was in the Senate revenue package and projected to raise about $108 million in the current budget year, could come into play in a compromise plan.” The compromise appears to be if Republicans can get Democrats to privatize state liquor sales and/or legalize video gaming terminals, they would be willing to throw the Marcellus industry under the bus with a severance tax. Nice people, those House Republicans. Let’s hope it’s only Reed who feels that way…

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