Gov. Wolf set to unveil budget plan with focus on severance tax for gas drillers

Liz Navratil and Angela Couloumbis | Monday, February 4, 2019, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HARRISBURG — When Gov. Tom Wolf delivers his budget address Tuesday, he is expected to call for more money for public schools, a higher minimum wage for Pennsylvania workers, and a new tax on natural gas drillers.

In doing so, the Democratic governor who is now unfettered by re-election concerns — and has been openly showcasing his progressive roots — will have to persuade a more conservative, Republican-controlled Legislature to buy into his plan.

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In Pennsylvania, it’s budgeting the election-year way. But the economy helped.

Charles Thompson | Tuesday, June 19, 2018, Harrisburg Patriot News

It seems almost too easy to say it, but the 2018-19 state budget set for a vote in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Wednesday does have all the elements of an election-year budget.

And why not?

This is 2018 after all.

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A severance tax on gas drilling in Pennsylvania is only fair

Brian O’Neill | Thursday, August 31, 2017, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

America’s Largest Full-Time State Legislature is famously tardy. We’re now a solid two months past the deadline for a balanced state budget and Pennsylvania is also the last big gas-producing state without a severance tax.

That’s just a coincidence. Even if we had a reasonable tax, it couldn’t balance the budget all by itself. But we should do it anyway because the rest of us are about to be asked to make serious sacrifices, and the drilling industry needs to do its share, too.

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Pennsylvania lawmakers want you to help pay for $2 billion budget gap

Laura McCrystal | Wednesday, August 9, 2017, Philadelphia Inquirer

If you have electricity in your house or a phone, Pennsylvania lawmakers want you to help plug the budget’s $2 billion gap.

Along with the controversial, highly publicized tax on natural-gas bills, in a vote last month the Senate also approved levies on telephone and electric utilities, which typically pass such costs onto customers.

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Pa. Senate approves plan to close $2.2B budget hole

Michael Rubinkam | Thursday, July 27, 2017, Associated Press

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Senate on Thursday approved a plan to eliminate a $2.2 billion budget deficit that includes heavy borrowing and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases, including on Marcellus Shale gas drilling, consumers’ utility bills and online purchases.

Floor votes came barely 14 hours after Republicans who control the chamber first unveiled their plan to balance the $32 billion state budget late Wednesday. It includes a proposal to borrow $1.3 billion against Pennsylvania’s annual share of the 1998 multistate settlement with tobacco companies, an approach rejected by their GOP counterparts in the House just last week. States typically borrow to prop up current spending only as a last resort.

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Governor Corbett approves budget for Pennsylvania’s 2014-2015 fiscal year

On July 10, 2014, Governor Corbett approved the budget for Pennsylvania’s 2014-2015 fiscal year after announcing that he had decided to line item veto certain funding for the state legislature. The budget provides for $29.1 billion in state spending for this new fiscal year. Budget highlights include:

  • No increases in broad-based state taxes (e.g., Personal Income Tax, Sales and Use Tax).
  • No severance tax on the extraction and production of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.
  • The continuation of economic development tax credits, including the Film Production Tax Credit.
  • The continued phase out of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax.
  • $10.5 billion for K-12 education.
  • A $20 million increase in special education.
  • A $10 million increase for PlanCon, a process whereby a school district seeks reimbursement from state government for a major construction project undertaken by the school district.
  • $327.69 million in funding for early childhood education, including a $10 million increase for Pre-K Counts.
  • A $3.5 million increase in funding for community colleges.
  • $5 million for the newly established Ready-to-Succeed Scholarship, which provides merit-based scholarships to students who demonstrate academic achievement and come from families with household income of less than $110,000.
  • $100 million for the newly created Ready-to-Learn Block Grants to support academic achievement with flexible uses that include the following: uses allowable under the Accountability Block Grant; establishing, expanding, and maintaining kindergarten and Pre-K programs; hybrid learning; and curriculum alignment.
  • Requirement that the Environmental Quality Board regulations differentiate between conventional oil and gas wells and unconventional gas wells.
  • Elimination of the state’s pension reimbursement payments to charter and cyber charter schools.
  • No public pension reform. However, pension reform may be taken up by the state legislature in the fall.
  • No liquor store privatization or modernization.