PLBC sees hope in Wolf's natural gas plans

HARRISBURG, Feb. 12 – Following Gov. Tom Wolf's introduction of his Education Reinvestment Act proposal, state Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, D-Phila., chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, expressed support on behalf of the PLBC members for the prospect of increased state investment in public education.

Wolf outlined his Education Reinvestment Act this week which, if enacted, would establish a reasonable severance tax on natural gas produced in the state. That could provide the state with a revenue source which could be used to assist public school budgets, as well as a means to start to attack the structural budget deficit already apparent in the state's budget.

"The PLBC would like to thank Governor Wolf for taking the leadership on this issue," Brown said. "He made establishing a fair and reasonable severance tax a key issue in his campaign, and he said during that campaign that revenue could be directed toward our seriously under-funded public schools.

"Wolf's proposal demonstrates a change in the philosophy of educational funding for Pennsylvania. Directing money from a severance tax toward education would benefit the drillers, as well as the schools and communities. A highly educated and well-trained work force can only benefit one of the state's newest and fastest-growing industries."

"The natural gas extraction process and its related industries can also provide unique business opportunities for minorities," said Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Phila. "We need to continue to support programs which support and encourage the hiring of diverse small businesses and ensure that minority and small-business owners are treated fairly in any contract bidding and hiring processes."

"As chairwoman, I will work with on behalf of the PLBC in negotiations with the governor and legislative leaders to establish a severance tax, a tax that all other states that allow fracking currently have in place," Brown said. "The PLBC will also fight to ensure that a fair portion of the revenue that may be raised under this proposal be used to aid public education, as well as help balance the budget.

"I would also like to salute the governor for his executive order which placed a moratorium on new drilling leases in state parks and forests. Our state lands are a unique asset which are to be protected according to our constitution. Restricting drilling in these public spaces will ensure our natural wonders will remain for future generations."