This weekend we learned that Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale commission, despite its lopsided representation from the natural gas industry, will apparently be recommending some form of
tax fee on fracking in addition to the odious practice of forced pooling. Here’s Angela Couloumbis and Laura Olson at the Inquirer:
Gov. Corbett’s advisory panel on drilling in the Marcellus Shale endorsed a long list of recommendations Friday on how to deal with the burgeoning industry, including imposing a local impact fee – not a tax – on the extraction of natural gas.
The 30-member commission also tacitly threw its weight behind the controversial practice of “pooling,” which effectively allows a drilling company to force holdout landowners to lease their below-ground gas rights under certain circumstances.
Today we learned that Corbett’s transportation funding panel recommends an increase in the gas tax, in addition to various fee increases:
The commission urged legislation to increase the cost of titles, inspections, driver’s licenses, and other documents in line with inflation. It said the move would raise $412 million in the first year and $574 million by the fifth year. The panel recommended increasing passenger-vehicle registration costs by $13 and four-year driver’s license fees by $4. Drivers would also be charged a $10 local registration fee.
The panel also suggested readjusting the wholesale gasoline tax, capped at $1.25 in 1993. That could bring in an extra $1.4 billion of revenue per year, according to the commission.
If properly adjusted for inflation, the tax would be increased by $1.43. The commission estimated that this would increase gas prices by about 22 cents per gallon this year.
An increase of 22 cents per gallon, around $36 a year, is a very smart way to raise $1.4 billion a year with minimal cost to economic growth. The state’s gas tax is already very low, and on balance, the gas tax policy should be encouraging less carbon-intensive ways of getting around. It’s a good thing if some people drive less as a result of the tax increase.
Likewise, taxing fracking is a very sensible way to raise revenue. I’m opposed to anything other than a statewide severance tax, but the fact that an industry-dominated panel recommended any kind of tax just goes to show how obvious a revenue source this is, and how extreme Corbett’s position is.
But Tom Corbett is unlikely to support any sensible suggestions for closing the state’s revenue shortfall, because his boss Grover Norquist has veto power over the majority Republicans, and Norquist doesn’t believe in “budgeting.”