Gov. Wolf to Erie: Support tax on shale

Gov. Tom Wolf stood in the Council Chambers at Erie City Hall on Wednesday to discuss the budget crisis.

He asked lawmakers to pass a balanced budget for the $32 million dollar spending plan, and urged the public to support a tax on shale.

Wold said, "We don't want to rock the boat. We have this new industry that could be doing some great things in Pennsylvania--creating jobs, creating all kinds of prosperity for us--and it is."

Pennsylvania is the second leading producer of dry natural gas, only behind Texas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Wolf said the state is the largest producer without a tax on the natural resource.

The Independent Fiscal Office estimates that 20 to 25 percent of the tax generated would come from Pennsylvanians, and the rest from out-of-state consumers.

Wolf said, “It strikes me that that would be a good thing. And it would plug that remaining $100 million hole that we've struggling all summer to figure out how to pay."

Shane Murray, superintendent of Iroquois School District, said 67 percent of the district’s funding comes from the state. 

"So, if there is a change in a percent or two, it makes a big difference in what I need to pass on to our local taxpayers, or we have to start looking at cutting programs,” he said.

It is a challenge that neighboring Erie School District knows well.

Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, said, "There's not a day that I don't get a call or an e-mail from a constituent who's concerned with that--or a schoolteacher or an administrator."

The State approved $14 million for Erie’s Public Schools, but with a state budget that is $2.2 billion in the whole, the money is in limbo.
“It’s one of those things that I have supported in the past, I will figure out how I can free up the money to pay for that in a responsible way.”

He said one of those possible ways would be the Marcellus Shale tax.

"This is really a common-sense thing; and it's so stunning that we, in Pennsylvania, don't have a reasonable shale tax."

Opponents have referenced the impact fee, which provides millions to communities where drilling occurs. Some people fear the the tax could hinder the industry.

Legislators will return to Harrisburg next week.

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