GOP counters Wolf’s capital plan with drilling, not taxes

Marc Levy
Associated Press
Pennsylvania Capitol building
(Photo by Liz Evans Scolforo)

HARRISBURG – Republicans who control Pennsylvania’s Senate are preparing an alternative to Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal for a multibillion-dollar capital plan, funding it by allowing more natural gas drilling in state-owned forests rather than by taxing natural gas production.

A sponsor, Sen. Pat Stefano of Fayette County, said Tuesday he expects the bill to be unveiled this week, ahead of June’s budget negotiations.

Stefano says drilling on another 500,000 acres of state forest land could yield $1 billion to finance projects without borrowing. Wolf, a Democrat, in January proposed a $4.5 billion bond to be repaid by a new severance tax.

The GOP’s plan targets a narrower scope of projects than Wolf’s proposal, including flood and stormwater control. Wolf in 2015 banned new drilling leases in state forests.