Wednesday, September 29, 2010
The House is poised for a final vote on a natural gas severance tax this evening. Many expected the vote to come last night after hours of debate. However that debate resulted in an amendment that shifted the priorities for how the tax dollars will be spent. The bill imposes a 39 cent tax on every thousand cubic feet of gas drilled. The original language sent 60 percent of that revenue to the General Fund, with 40 percent going to other causes, including 12 percent for environmental stewardship efforts. Montgomery County Republican Kate Harper went to the floor to say that is not enough for her. “Don’t kid yourselves. You’re not voting for Mother Nature here. You’re voting to dump 80 million dollars into the General Fund. And I don’t think voters will appreciate it.” Later, House Majority Leader Todd Eachus shifted his stance and backed Harper’s amendment flipping the formula, sending 40 percent to the General Fund, and 60 percent to other line items including 32 percent for the environment. “This policy makes sense. Look, if you live in a place where there’s drilling, you understand the danger to clean water and environment, where the drilling takes place,” says Eachus. The amendment passed with bipartisan support, on a 154-45 vote. If a final vote is taken tonight and the bill, as expected, passes, it will then move on to the senate where Republicans say the 39 cent tax is too high for them to accept. A top staffer for Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati says the rate is “wholly unacceptable.” In a statement, Governor Rendell applauded the 154-45 vote for the amendment, and urged representatives to support the bill today.