Tuesday, September 28, 2010
An indoor rally took place downtown today at the SEIU Health care Pennsylvania headquarters. The Coalition for Labor Engagement and Accountable Revenue gathered in support of imposing a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas wells. Governor Ed Rendell and legislative leaders vowed to pass a tax by October 1, but that deadline appears dubious. The House Appropriations Committee passed a measure this morning that would impose a 39¢ tax per thousand cubic feet of gas. The full house could vote on the measure this week. SEIU health care Pennsylvania president Neal Bisno says lawmakers urged law makers to make what he called the right choice. "They can either stand with big oil and their lobbyists, or stand up for middle class taxpayers homeowners, children, seniors and other working folks. Many state senators will be standing for election in just a few weeks and this issue provides a clarifying moment for tax payers and voters." But the Republican controlled Senate likely won't pass the measure as it's currently written. They prefer a tax similar to that of Arkansas where drillers pay 1.5 percent of the dollar value of gas extracted. Bisno called the tax necessary, “to protect the environment, to compensate the communities that will be impacted by industry activity and to prevent additional cuts to things like early childhood education, libraries, state parks, services for seniors and people with disabilities -- to name just a few.” The house bill would split revenue 60/40 with the majority going to the state general fund and the rest earmarked for communities, environmental measures and maintenance of infrastructure used by the industry. Republicans would like to see that ratio flipped. Governor Ed Rendell prefers West Virginia's tax plan, which takes 5 percent of the value of the extracted gas and an additional 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet. Rendell wants about $70 million in natural gas money to balance the budget. The state faces a $282 million deficit.