Pennsylvania is the only major natural gas producing state without a severance tax on gas extraction. Ever since Governor Tom Wolf was sworn into office in 2015, he has been trying to institute a severance tax but has been stymied by the Republican controlled House whose leadership has steadfastly refused to even bring it up for a vote. Most recently the Wolf administration has proposed a four year, $4.5 billion program called Restore Pennsylvania that would: (1) bring broadband internet access to rural areas; (2) fund transportation capital projects including road and bridge repairs, upgrading public transportation, and assisting business development with strategically developed transportation projects; (3) build critical flood and stormwater control infrastructure; and (4) demolish blighted buildings and clean brownfield contaminated areas to create new commercial and recreational areas.
Governor Wolf’s Restore Pennsylvania does have solid Democratic support (along with a few Republicans), but the Republican leadership in the House has consistently shot it down by obstinately stating that a severance tax on gas is a non-starter. A majority of our state’s citizens support a severance tax according to poll taken by Franklin & Marshall College in August of 2019. Pennsylvania does impose an impact fee on gas producers but the revenue from that is fairly low, about $200 million per year, roughly the same as it was in 2011, even though gas production has increased by five times the 2011 amount according to a 2018 study published by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. Wolf has proposed instituting the severance tax in addition to the current impact fees. The combined revenues from the tax and fee would be used to pay the interest and principal on long term bonds that would be sold to fund Restore Pennsylvania.
We may never know the real reasons why Speaker Mike Turzai and other House Republicans want to put the interests of the gas producers above that of Pennsylvania’s citizens, but we do know that it’s wrong. Every other major gas and oil producing state other than Pennsylvania reaps significant revenue from these extractions. The Pennsylvania gas that the gas companies extract belongs to every citizen of the Commonwealth, and when it’s gone, it’s gone forever. We should not be giving it away for next to nothing. Apparently, only a Democratic majority in the state house and senate and a Democratic governor will enable us to get what we need and deserve.
In the state House, the legislation was introduced with 99 co-sponsors. That’s nearly a majority of members supporting the measure in the 203-seat chamber.
Of those 99 lawmakers, 83 are Democrats and 16 are Republicans.
Half of those Republican co-sponsors represent part of the Philly suburbs: Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery and Chester counties.
In the 50-seat state Senate, the legislation was introduced with 25 co-sponsors: 21 Democrats and 4 Republicans.
Three of the four Republicans represent only or mostly the Philly suburbs. The fourth is Sen. Mario Scavello, who represents parts of Monroe and Northampton counties.