Next week is “make or break” time, if a natural gas severance tax is going to be signed into law this year. The Pennsylvania Senate has just three more session days this year so if they don’t pass a tax next week, the measure can’t become law.
Governor Ed Rendell has urged the Senate to set aside questions about whether or not the tax passed by the House this month violates Pennsylvania’s constitution, and pass a bill next week.
But Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati’s chief of staff, Drew Crompton, argues the Senate can’t pass its own bill without running into the same constitutional problems.
"Revenue bills must begin in the House. And so it is not that easy, just to pick another bill and say, well this will work, and run with that. So we have some difficult decisions, if, in fact, legislative reference bureau believes that the bill is non-constitutional."
Scarnati has asked the legislative reference bureau to issue a formal opinion on whether or not the House tax is unconstitutional because the tax provisions were amended into a bill that started in the Senate, not the House.
Meantime, staffers from the Senate, House and governor’s office are holding daily meetings, in the hope of hashing out a compromise on the tax rate and revenue distribution. Crompton says there is progress but it is slow.