LETTER: No chance to speak at public hearing


We received notice regarding a public hearing being held by the Pennsylvania Taxpayers' Caucus on Aug. 1 at the Fairview Township Fire Department. The caucus members were actually local state House members led by Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township. The stated purpose of the hearing was to gather taxpayers’ opinions regarding the state Senate budget legislation. The House has yet to vote. We wanted to speak in favor of the severance tax or at least acknowledge that something must be done rather than continuing debt and cutting services to residents.


We registered with Grove’s office as directed. We attended the event and it rapidly became obvious that the speakers were business representatives against raising the gross receipts tax, a tax on electric and gas and telecommunications and against raising the severance tax. Speaker after speaker seemed hand-picked including the Commonwealth Foundation staff and a member from ALEC who had come from Washington, D.C.

Surprisingly, a speaker from Calpine, a power generation company with a plant in York, seemed to disappoint the panel by saying that he did not have an opinion regarding the legislation. Rep. Francis X. Ryan, R-Lebanon County, quickly retorted that he needed to get an opinion. This was going to hurt Calpine’s business and Pennsylvania already has a bad business climate. Calpine has plans for eight plants to be built in Pennsylvania. When asked why Calpine chose to build in Pennsylvania, he replied, “The gas is here.”

The ALEC speaker was announced as the last speaker on the list without acknowledgement of any other speakers. The following day, we called Grove and asked, “Did we do something wrong? Did we miss a step in the process?” After the staff member was asked if we could have been omitted because our message was unwelcome, he laughed.