By David Spigelmyer
Political stunts and double-speak appear to be the hallmarks of this election season, especially when it comes to safe, job-creating natural gas development.
Pennsylvania politicians – starting with the driver of the navy blue Jeep – claim they want the job creation, community benefits and economic growth that natural gas delivers.
In fact, Gov. Tom Wolf has cited shale’s “enormous economic opportunity” and pledged to “support additional development,” but champions policies like a job-crushing energy tax increase that threaten those meaningful opportunities.
This election-year rhetoric threatens the family-sustaining benefits and handicaps our potential to move the Commonwealth forward that domestic natural gas production represents.
It also ignores indisputable facts about the progress Pennsylvania has made thanks to this abundant and affordable resource.
In just six years, Pennsylvania’s unique tax on natural gas drilling – called the Impact Fee – has generated nearly $1.5 billion in new revenue that funds critical community investments in all 67 counties as well as statewide environmental, conservation and recreation programs.
We are the only state in the country with a tax on the gas industry that goes to local communities instead of a general fund for use by politicians. This revenue has been collected on top of the more than $3 billion in business taxes paid by the natural gas industry to the Commonwealth.
In addition, natural gas producers have paid billions of dollars in royalties to farmers, landowners and other mineral-rights owners for production on private land, and more than $100 million a year to the commonwealth for development under public land – a figure that could be much higher had Wolf not banned further development.
Communities and families have further benefitted from the tens of thousands of good-paying jobs that natural gas supports across Pennsylvania, including many in the skilled trades, as well as lower energy costs that save the average family $1,500 per year while attracting manufacturers and other industries.
Our leaders in Harrisburg should celebrate the economic benefits we enjoy thanks to natural gas, not plot new ways to punish job creators.
Imposing additional taxes on businesses in what is nationally recognized as an uncompetitive tax environment only serves to stunt job creation. It endangers the jobs held by building trades and supported by small businesses.
It sends a message that Pennsylvania’s chief executive chooses to double down on his tax-and-spend platform instead of enact policies designed to attract additional capital.
These additional revenues would not go back to the people of Pennsylvania, like the current impact fee; they would be funneled to government pensions and other government-mismanaged funds.
We have an opportunity to sustain and grow the benefits that clean-burning, domestic natural gas delivers to Pennsylvania families, small businesses, consumers and communities.
It’s time for Wolf and fellow higher tax advocates to stop electioneering on the backs of job creators and hard-working Pennsylvanians and instead enact policies that encourage job creation and more natural gas use to grow manufacturing and the commonwealth’s economy.
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