Pennsylvania Budget passes without a Marcellus tax or fee

Date: June 27, 2011

Both the Senate and the House have passed a budget that fails to tax or charge any type of fee on Natural Gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale.

The issue of taxing of Marcellus Shale has been a major topic of discussion, especially in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  The impact of the extraction of Natural Gas from the Marcellus Shale has made some people very wealthy and others very upset.

Pennsylvania is the only major natural gas producing state that currently has no tax or extraction fee on natural gas.  Governor Tom Corbett campaigned on a platform of no taxes on Marcellus shale and has stuck to that campaign promise in his proposed budget, and the legislature follows suit.

A Quinnipiac poll in June 2011, showed that those polled support, 69 percent to 24 percent, a new tax on companies drilling for natural gas. Even 69 percent of Republicans polled support such a tax.

State Senator John Yudichak (D-14th) says the issue is not dead, and that the legislature will address the issue of Marcellus tax or fees this Fall.

Yudichak, a strong voice for a Marcellus Shale Impact Fee or Severance Tax, also stated that he is disappointed the legislature failed to enact a fair and responsible fee on natural gas drilling, which would have significantly helped address adverse environmental issues associated will drilling.

This is only the third time in more than 40 years that a Pennsylvania State Budget spends less than the previous years.  A major factor in the reduction in spending is the loss of federal stimulus money, which allowed Pennsylvania and many other states to save programs and jobs over the past two years.  That money is no longer available.

Yudichak, who joined his Democratic colleagues in solidarity in voting against the budget, was not pleased with the budget.  Yudichak says the plan falls short of preserving programs and services vital to Pennsylvania\’s economic recovery.

On the $27.15 billion spending plan, Yudichak stated that the spending plan cuts too deeply into education and job creation programs, weakens the hospital system and fails to enact a responsible fee on Marcellus Shale drilling.

“For months, I have called for guiding this budget by two principles – job creation and making government more accountable to taxpayers,” Yudichak said.  “Unfortunately this budget falls severely short of these principles.”

Yudichak said school districts in the region will face a severe cut of $23,687,669 in this budget.  On average that is a 13.3 percent cut from 2010-2011.   He added that these districts will now have to cut vital educational programs and layoff teachers, students will be crowded into classrooms and households will inevitably see a spike in property taxes.

Northeastern Pennsylvania school districts will see significant reductions in state revenues.  The decrease in funding  from 2010 to 2011 is as follows:

·         Nanticoke – $1,580,628 less  – 13% cut

·         Hanover Area- $1,048,569 less – 13% cut

·         Hazleton Area – $4,516,132 less – 12% cut

·         Pittston Area – $1,260,312 less – 12% cut

·         Wilkes-Barre Area – $3,904,811 – less 14% cut

·         Wyoming Area – $986,676 less – 12% cut

 

·         Wyoming Valley West – $2,922,455 less – 14% cut

·         Pocono Mountain – $4,182,942 less – 17% cut

·         Jim Thorpe – $503,404 less – 16% cut

·         Lehighton – $1,196,384 less – 13% cut

·         Panther Valley – $1,234,349 less – 14% cut

·         Weatherly – $351,007 less – 10% cut

Yudichak added that colleges and universities throughout the state will receive significantly less funding in this year\’s budget.

“We have some very worthy institutions in our region.  Unfortunately, our community colleges, our private colleges and universities, our state system schools and our state- related colleges will see their funding decrease, their tuition increase and the dream of higher education for many students will remain just a dream,” Yudichak said.

He added that cuts to job creation and business support programs in the state Department of Economic Development will harm efforts to rebuild Pennsylvania\’s economy.

“It seems awfully misguided to cut proven job creation initiatives during a time of fiscal distress, yet these initiatives have also been zeroed out in this budget plan,” Yudichak said.  “True economic growth comes from solid programs that help businesses get off the ground and maintain their workforce.”

Yudichak added that despite modest restorations made to uncompensated care, in the amount of $16.5 million, hospitals are still negatively affected by budget cuts.

“These restorations are a good start, but hospitals really need more funding,” Yudichak said.  “And, with adultBasic not being funded in this budget, more and more individuals will turn to hospitals for care.”

“Here and now we have bipartisan support on a fair impact fee that would protect the environment as well as continue to grow the tremendous economic impact of the Marcellus Shale industry, yet it remains unfinished business,” Yudichak said.  “The people of Pennsylvania, by an overwhelming majority, have called for a fair and responsible tax or fee on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region.”

Yudichak finished by saying that while he understands the seriousness of Pennsylvania fragile economy, there were other option available to stem the harsh cuts made in this spending plan.

“I truly understand that with fiscal distress comes the need for a bit of belt tightening, but what I do not understand is why we are selling short the future of Pennsylvania with a budget that weakens job growth and fails to enact a responsible Marcellus Shale severance tax.”

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Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.