Severance tax is a step toward a smarter, better budget

Pennsylvania faces a serious and growing budget deficit as talks get underway on the 2017-18 state budget.


We can't continue to rely solely on temporary revenue sources, more borrowing from critical programs, or accounting gimmicks to balance our budgets.


And we can't keep cutting from our schools, our economy and public health and safety -- all these things are important to the future of our state and our residents and their families.


What we can and should do to begin closing the deficit and moving our state forward is taking a better approach to the budget.


House Democrats want a responsible approach that includes making government more efficient, closing loopholes that increase the burden on the middle class, and having everyone, including corporations and the wealthy, pay their fair share.


The best way to address a stubborn and lingering deficit problem is with predictable, sustainable revenues that grow with the economy.


One option Republican budgets have ignored for years is a natural gas severance tax.


A severance tax would provide sustainable, predictable revenue that grows as the industry grows.


The impact fee Republicans prefer helps host communities, but it continues to shrink as natural gas production and profits expand.


The burden on middle class taxpayers should go down as revenues and profits for gas drillers go up.


Here in Pennsylvania, we have it backwards.


A natural gas extraction tax is not a broad-based tax or a tax increase on working people.


It's a tax that drillers in other states have been paying for years -- one that helps schools, roads and bridges, senior citizens, health care and more.


It's a tax that PA residents will only pay a tiny portion of.


Most of the gas produced in PA is exported to other states -- residents in those other states would pay 90% of the cost of a severance tax in PA.


And, it's a tax that a majority of PA residents support.


If we want to ease the tax burden on working people, everyone has to pay their fair share -- including the gas drillers.


Why is a severance tax a bad idea in Pennsylvania if it's a good idea in Texas, Oklahoma and West Virginia -- where it's pumping billions into state budgets?


And why do the drillers in Pennsylvania say it's ALWAYS the wrong time for a severance tax -- when the market is down AND when the market is up?


We need to listen to the people of Pennsylvania and start doing what is best for them and their families, not just the drillers.