Wolf likely to make shale gas severance tax an early priority

Power Source

By Michael Sanserino

HARRISBURG — Gov.-elect Tom Wolf will enter office next month facing Republican majorities in the state Senate and House of Representatives that grew as a result of the most recent election.

But he should find support for one of his biggest campaign pledges — to impose a severance tax on natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale.

And it’s growing more likely that the tax proposal will top his legislative agenda at the start of his term, according to a panel of politicians and pundits that met Wednesday in Harrisburg.

Speaking at Pennsylvania environmental advocacy nonprofit PennFuture’s post-election forum at the Civic Club of Harrisburg, state Rep. Kate Harper, a Montgomery County Republican, said there appears to be enough public support to impose a severance tax.

“Since 2008, we’ve been living on fumes, so I think most people know we need more money,” Ms. Harper said. “And most people would rather we get that money from the shale industry than their own pockets.”

She said she believes there is a mandate for a severance tax in Pennsylvania.

That sentiment mirrors polling figures collected by Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College.

“They support the shale tax, overwhelmingly,” Mr. Madonna, the event’s keynote speaker, said of Pennsylvania voters. “It’s not even close.”

By making the severance tax a legislative priority, Mr. Wolf would start his term with an issue that has bipartisan and public support. The early focus is telling, considering that Mr. Corbett’s missteps in the first year of his term eventually helped defeat him as he sought re-election.

Education was the most important issue of the past election, Mr. Madonna said, and Mr. Corbett never recovered from education spending cuts he introduced in his first year in office.

But a severance tax bill won’t be easy to pass.

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