Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dems Debate Tobacco, Performing Arts & Marcellus Taxes

Rank-and-file House Democrats voiced concerns about the tentative budget deal during a four hour closed-door meeting yesterday. After the session ended, Majority Leader Todd Eachus announced the House will hold a vote on a Marcellus Shale severance tax.
Complaints were registered about potential taxes on small games of chance and live artistic performances, as well as the lack of a new levy on smokeless tobacco.
Majority Leader Todd Eachus says members also want to see a tax on natural gas extractions in the Marcellus Shale. He says the House will hold a vote on that issue today.

"It’s one of those issues as Democrats that we continue to feel strongly about—that as natural resources, in this case natural gas, are extracted from the ground, and they’re once and gone, that there should be a social benefit, not only for the commonwealth but the communities where that gas is extracted from. Our members want it, they’re going to get a vote on that."

Both Governor Rendell and Senate Republicans oppose a Shale tax, and it’s not included in the tentative agreement announced earlier this month.

Rank-and-file members still haven’t seen line item specifics yet, but several expressed concern about taxes on small games of chance and live artistic performances, as well as a plan to lease out state forest land for natural gas drilling.
That annoyed Allegheny County Democrat Nick Kotik, who says these talks should have happened months ago.

"It’s not a discussion that’s going to be productive now. It gets back to what I said—the Senate has agreed to certain things, and I don’t think they’re going to move off that position. So you can make all those comments and suggestions over and over and over and nothing’s going to happen from them. So you better look at the things you can agree on, vs. things you wish you could agree on."

York County Democrat Eugene DePasquale is upset the budget deal doesn’t include a tax on smokeless tobacco.

"The big issue that you’re hearing is there’s this tax on the arts, at least proposed, and not smokeless tobacco. News flash—smokeless tobacco causes cancer."

Eachus and other Democrats say the budget won’t be finished by Rendell’s Sunday deadline, though they’re committed to working through the weekend.

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