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Pennsylvania State House Is Called On To Tax Gas Drilling For Public Education

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- While the State Senate in Harrisburg has approved a plan to balance the state budget, in part by taxing drilling for natural gas, the revenue package remains in limbo, awaiting House action.

Supporters of the extraction tax are leaning on House members, to get it done.

Local politicians, labor leaders and community activists are calling on the Pennsylvania House to return from recess and pass a tax on natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale formation.

Shale Tax Rally In Strawberry Mansion
Credit: Steve Tawa

They met outside the Richard Wright Elementary School in Philadelphia's Strawberry Mansion section, the home district of State Representative Donna Bullock.

"We have allowed big corporations to continue to take natural resources out of our land, and not put back in," she said.

As Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan points out, the Commonwealth isn't the only state that's drilling for gas, but it is the only state in the nation that does not place an extraction tax on corporations.

"The shale drilling business is booming," he said. "It's time to share the wealth, with Pennsylvania's school children."

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Governor Wolf has long promised to use the tax on drillers to fund public education.

Wright School 5th grade teacher Angela Masceri says everything she does centers on the needs of the children in her classrooms.

"More funding means more opportunities, better resources and richer programs for their education," she said.

Bullock says Pennsylvania is the second largest natural gas producing state in the country, right behind Texas. All told, she says 35-states that have natural gas production have a shale tax. But, not Pennsylvania.

State Rep Donna Bullock at Shale Tax rally in Strawberry Mansion
Credit: Steve Tawa

Bullock says if the Shale Tax was passed when first proposed in 2008, the Commonwealth would not be facing annual deficits.

"We have left $2-billion on the table," she said.

Many Republican legislators, the oil and gas industry and its lobbyists oppose any and all natural gas severance taxes.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and other pro-business groups say an extraction tax would adversely impact their competitive edge. They favor what they call pro-growth policies to encourage job creation and more revenue for the state.

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