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EDITORIAL: Support grows in GOP for shale drilling tax
Clark Ruppert Jr., a member of the Pennsylvania State Council of Machinists from West Manchester Township, supports Auditor General Eugene DePasquale's calls for a natural gas extraction tax in the 2017-18 budget. Jason Addy
The lengths to which the leadership of the GOP-controlled state House is willing to go for Marcellus Shale drillers is amazing.
Facing a $2 billion shortfall on the revenue side of the recently approved $32 billion budget plan, the House was in a rare weekend session Saturday to consider can-kicking legislation ordered up by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny.
According to The Associated Press, the no-new-taxes package would borrow about $1.5 billion “and raid hundreds of millions of dollars more from off-budget programs.”
Talks with the Senate and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s office broke down last week as House Republicans acknowledged their fractured majority might not be able to pass any sort of revenue package without help from Democrats, AP reported.
The Democratic lawmakers support the governor’s request for a $700 million to $800 million tax package, according to AP. Wolf says the revenue is needed to avoid another downgrade to Pennsylvania’s credit rating, which would make it more expensive to borrow money.
Ignoring the problem has been the Republicans’ solution year after year, and — surprise! — the deficit continues to grow.
We understand the GOP’s position on taxes, but it’s time the party deals with this mess in a reasonable and responsible way.
They can do it — a few years back they managed to support tax increases and fee hikes to pay for a transportation bill to fix Pennsylvania’s crumbling bridges and roads.
But even back then, the Republicans couldn’t bear the thought of taxing the natural gas drillers who continue making a bundle off Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale reserves.
Pennsylvania was then and is now the only large natural gas-producing state that does not collect an extraction tax.
Yes, some in the GOP have joined past bipartisan efforts to pass an extraction tax, but their bills died at the hands of stubborn colleagues.
However, it seems more Republicans are coming to their senses and understand they cannot continue down the path they’ve been on — and they certainly can’t justify asking hard-working Pennsylvanians to shoulder more of the burden while continuing to give drillers a pass.
Turzai sent lawmakers home from their Saturday session after the representatives rejected “in significant fashion” a plan to raid the state’s tobacco settlement fund to help cover the deficit, AP reported.
State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, a moderate Republican from the Philadelphia suburbs, said some of his party colleagues made clear during the session that they wanted a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production or other forms of revenue that will be available in future years.
“I think we still need some recurring revenue to come into the budget,” he said.
Senate Republican spokesman Drew Crompton said the GOP-majority chamber intends to get back to work this week on the funding plan.
“Our members, we’ve heard them loud and clear over the past two weeks, they want to do something responsible,” he said.
We urge our readers to contact their House representatives and make sure those lawmakers hear loud and clear that we expect the same from them.
— The Associated Press contributed to this editorial.