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The authors of a recent op-ed ("Put kids first, not gas companies," July 27) offer plenty of partisan rhetoric and personal attacks, but few facts. To help inform the budget debate, here are some major points they missed.

First, no one claims the gas industry will disappear entirely if Gov. Wolf's severance tax is imposed — that's a straw man argument. But basic economics tells us there will be tradeoffs: less investment, fewer jobs, or higher prices. Indeed, there have already been layoffs in the drilling sector due primarily to low prices.

The Independent Fiscal Office finds the severance tax would result in higher utility costs — $180 million paid by Pennsylvania families earning less than $100,000.

Gas drillers already pay an "impact fee" — really a tax — of more than $200 million per year. That's on top of $300 million paid since 2009 in other state taxes (all the taxes common to other businesses) and $7 billion in royalty payments.

Further, school funding hasn't been "cut." School district revenue reached a record high $26.1 billion last year, according to the state Department of Education. And Pennsylvania schools spend $3,000 more per student than the national average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Finally, Wolf's severance tax isn't earmarked for education. Money would flow first to corporate welfare subsidies for alternative energy. His plan to raise sales and income taxes, and extend sales tax to 45 additional services like nursing home care and day care, would generate far more tax revenue than his severance tax.

None of these facts are in dispute. But the authors chose to ignore them and lob insults rather than offer voters an informed discussion.

NATHAN A. BENEFIELD

Commonwealth Foundation

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