House Appropriations Chairman Stan Saylor said he has never — and will never — base his decisions on helping someone win or lose an election.
The longtime Windsor Township representative's comments come after gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner was recorded telling a crowd that he urged Saylor to block a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production to hurt Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s re-election chances.
Saylor, a Republican serving his 13th term, declined to discuss any conversations he's had with Sen. Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, but he pointed out that he has been strongly opposed to a severance tax his entire political career.
"Why kill an industry that's set to create a lot of jobs in Pennsylvania in the future?" Saylor asked.
In late July, the state Senate narrowly passed a revenue package — with Wagner voting against it — that included a severance tax, one of Wolf's campaign promises when he won election to his first term.
Wagner can be heard on the recording saying, "I said, ‘Stan, you cannot let this severance tax get through and it gets to the governor’s desk, because if that happens the governor is going to get re-elected. Stan, you take that to the bank.’”
Wagner’s comments were recorded Sept. 14 at a York County event by a Democratic Party tracker, according to The Associated Press.
The AP reported that Wagner’s campaign didn’t challenge the recording’s authenticity.
Beth Melena, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, said: "Republicans in the Legislature conspiring with their gubernatorial candidate to block a shale tax for electoral gain is Harrisburg at its very worst. Scott Wagner seems to have swamp fever."
Budget negotiations: Saylor said he didn't prevent a vote on imposing a Marcellus Shale tax, but House Democrats and Republicans who supported the tax didn't have enough votes to pass it, so they let it go.
Saylor is currently in the midst of trying to close the books on his first budget as appropriations chairman. The budget was due July 1.
He said Monday evening that Wolf is now actively involved in negotiations and the Legislature is very close to finalizing an agreement.
The final revenue package is likely to include one-time fund transfers from special or restricted funds, a gaming expansion and borrowing or selling against future tobacco settlement funds, Saylor said.
He said final details being worked out include legalizing fireworks and ensuring that there will be enough recurring revenue to cover next year's budget.
— Reach David Weissman at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.