FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Greg Vitali
House Republicans block vote on drilling tax bill
HARRISBURG, May 25 – Republicans today blocked the full House of Representatives from considering state Rep. Greg Vitali's bill that would tax Marcellus Shale gas drillers to help ease deep state budget cuts.
"House Republicans are manipulating the rules to avoid a vote on House Bill 33," Vitali said. "But poll after poll shows seven in 10 Pennsylvanians want this tax, and we need it to help fill cuts in education, health care and environmental programs."
A series of parliamentary maneuvers came to a head today when Vitali appealed a ruling made by House Speaker Sam Smith to send the bill back to the Finance Committee, where it has been stalled since early February. The House upheld Smith's ruling on a nearly party-line vote.
"The speaker could not provide any precedent to support his decision in the history of the House, which goes back before Benjamin Franklin," Vitali said. "It delays action on this legislation, which could bring $200 million to the state for the 2011-12 fiscal year."
The revenue would be shared equally by the General Fund, the Growing Greener program and communities impacted by gas drilling. Growing Greener is a program used to protect family farms, preserve open space, enhance access to outdoor recreation, reduce flooding and pollution, and restore abandoned mine land.
Vitali said the $66 million the General Fund would receive through the tax is enough to offset a proposed cut to Penn State's appropriation from the legislature, or to keep funding programs that keep seniors in their houses instead of nursing homes.
"Many of these gas drilling companies have gross profits in the billions and use our natural resources to help turn that profit," Vitali said. "They can well afford this tax."
Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state in the state that does not have a drilling tax or fee in place.
The bill has an effective tax rate of 5.9 percent – slightly less than the rate imposed by West Virginia.
Two Penn State University professors have recently said the tax would have little impact on the industry’s growth in Pennsylvania.