State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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The Shale tax beat goes on to help fund education in Pa.

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 13, 2014 2:51 AM

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Education advocates are keeping up the drum beat about the need for a new extraction tax on natural gas in Pennsylvania to bolster school budgets.

They say lawmakers have a choice: tax natural gas drillers or watch as schools hike their local property taxes.

"We need an infusion of dollars are the state level for schools and for students," said Jay Himes, director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. "We cannot continue the failing strategy of cutting our way to success."

Money from an extraction tax (also called a severance tax) could knock out a big chunk of the state's more than one billion dollar deficit. Governor Corbett has said he's against it, highlighting the money already collected under his administration's passage of the impact fee levied on each gas well drilled in Pennsylvania.

But Corbett was quoted earlier this week saying he might consider revenue generating moves as long as other items on his legislative wish-list are passed first -- liquor privatization and an overhaul of pension benefits for future state and school hires. Senate and House lawmakers struggled to advance either proposal this week.

Steve Miskin, a House GOP spokesman said the votes "aren't there" for a severance tax. But several GOP members have voiced support for it. Bill Patton, the House Democratic spokesman, said the measure could pass with bipartisan backing if the proposed tax were large enough. The Senate GOP is considered to be amenable to a severance tax - the majority leader has supported such proposals in the past.

It's also possible, however, Patton pointed out, that the governor is not signaling he could go along with a tax on natural gas, but simply "laying the groundwork for a late budget." If Corbett insists he's waiting for liquor and pension bills, he can hold out longer for a state spending plan, despite his campaign cry that he brought on-time budgets back to Pennsylvania.

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