Pennsylvania House Takes Up Latest Budget Revenue Proposal

Lester Mason
October 19, 2017

Pennsylvania lawmakers took a step toward breaking the budget stalemate Tuesday night. A sponsor, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, said at the current price it would raise about $250 million in a full year, although others calculated a figure closer to $100 million, using 2016 production and current prices.Opponents also warned that a provision in the bill changing the terms of landowner royalty contracts is unconstitutional.

Two weeks ago, frustrated by inaction by the Legislature, Wolf announced he was asking the Liquor Control Board to complete the deal to generate the money needed to balance the state's $32 billion budget.

The House bill did not include those provisions, and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said Republicans in his chamber would not support the tax without them.The House bill imposes a volume tax that rises with the price of natural gas from 2 cents per thousand cubic feet to 3.5 cents per thousand cubic feet.

House spokesman Steve Miskin said the House is dedicated to its current revenue plan. The Senate could possibly consider action on the House plan as early as Monday.

Moreover, the legislation does not include any environmental and regulatory reforms that accompanied the Senate-passed severance tax.

The increased borrowing is a cause for concern for senators as is the aggressive revenue estimates that the House is counting on from the yet-to-be-determined expansion of legalized gambling, Corman said.

"We would not consider any Marcellus shale tax without the permit reforms", he said Wednesday.

"We're going to work through that and see what we get, but I'm going to make sure that when it comes to gaming, that we do the best public policy". "In the coming days, we'll be working internally as a caucus, but also with our colleagues across the aisle and with the governor's office".

"When a final plan from the Legislature reaches his desk, he will evaluate the pieces", Abbott said.

In response, House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) stated that using the gaming bill to meet revenue goals is a necessary component to ensuring state-related universities get funded and balancing the budget this year and next year. "That is not accidental", he said. When combined, the impact fee and severance tax would equal about 5 percent of the value of natural gas sold, according to the proposal. "I do believe this is something the people of Pennsylvania want the Legislature to take up a discussion on". House Republican leaders, who oppose it, could use procedural tactics to bottle it up or delay it.The Republican-controlled Senate approved a similar tax in July, along with provisions created to speed up the state's issuance of pollution-control permits for the activities of various industries. "This is a fair and commonsense proposal that will address our structural budget deficit. Pennsylvania is the only natural gas producing state without a severance tax and the vast majority of the tax would be paid out of state". A House committee on Wednesday voted 16-9 to move a bill that would call for the drilling tax, though its fate is uncertain since the House Republican leadership has been resistant to allowing a vote on the tax. That is the last scheduled session week before the break for municipal elections in November.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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