The Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls trekked out to the Pennsylvania Farm Show this weekend.
Whether or not to impose a tax on natural gas drilling was a big topic of discussion at the show’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Day luncheon.
Auditor General Jack Wagner says he’d support a “modest” tax on natural gas extractions, but says the levy proposed by the Rendell Administration last year was too high.
"You cannot propose a tax at the highest level in the country and expect the companies that are interested in doing business in Pennsylvania to look upon us favorably."
Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty disagrees, arguing drillers want access to Pennsylvania’s vast natural gas deposits, and would write off any tax rate as a cost of doing business.
"It’s in their interest to do it, to get it, because they want to make money and we have the resource. We should protect that resource."
Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel says imposing a severance tax is the right thing to do.
"Part of making sure that this new industry – which is a magnificent economic opportunity and blessing for Pennsylvania, the natural gas industry – part of our obligation is to make sure they pay their fair share, and that all Pennsylvanians benefit from it."
Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato says he wouldn’t support a severance tax.
"There will be revenues that are generated from that industry. The question is what’s the best way to do it. You want to do it in a way where you don’t kill the industry before it gets going. But find a way where the state does get additional revenues from it as it grows. And then the real debate’s going to be, what do we do with those revenues?"
Onorato says he’s worried the levy would kill Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry before it gets going.
Philadelphia businessman Tom Knox had the flu, so he missed the Farm Show luncheon.