State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Rinse, repeat: lawmakers propose shale severance tax

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 17, 2013 2:52 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks), far right, will propose a tax on natural gas production to replace the current per-well impact fee.

A small group of state lawmakers is trying to give some life to debate over taxing Marcellus Shale production. At the Capitol, those looking on don't seem to be holding their breath.

The cadre of two moderate Republicans and two Democrats said at a press conference Tuesday that reconsidering a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production (instead of the current per-well impact fee) could bring much-needed money into a variety of government line items.

Gov. Corbett has long since ruled out such a tax, but Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) said it's a reasonable option.

"Almost every other state that has Marcellus shale has a severance tax," said DiGirolamo, who has often diverged from House GOP leadership. "I think this is an issue that we need to debate."

Patrick Henderson, the governor's top energy adviser, said lawmakers already had their debate over a severance tax.

"For probably a period of three years before Gov. Corbett came along there was a debate," he said, adding that because there was no consensus at the time, the commonwealth went without any tax revenue from natural gas production.

Several Democratic gubernatorial candidates have also made their support of a severance tax the centerpiece of their respective policy platforms.

Rep. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny) said passing a severance tax could help lawmakers and the Corbett administration raise revenues at a time when tax dollars are coming in below estimate.

"We will soon be hearing from the governor with his budget concerns," said Readshaw, referring to the governor's February budget address, in which he'll outline his budget proposal before lawmakers begin negotiating in earnest. "I think this is a very, very good suggestion legislation to be incorporated into the budget as we start the process in the year 2014."

Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria), who several years ago supported a severance tax proposal, said the chances of it advancing under this governor aren't likely.

"We'll see what happens but when is it, a week before Christmas?" said Wozniak. "I don't think their Christmas present's coming."

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