I believe the burgeoning natural gas drilling industry that is rampant across southwestern Pennsylvania can provide financial aid to municipalities without a cost to local taxpayers.
Natural gas and coal-bed methane are found with great abundance in our commonwealth, making untold riches for wealthy gas companies but remaining virtually tax-free within our borders. Nearly every state taxes natural resources, so implementing such an assessment would not drive the drilling companies to our neighbors. There is precedence for such a tax, as counties, municipalities and school districts were assessing one until 2002 when the state Supreme Court decided the General Assembly had not recognized gas and oil as a taxable interest.
To correct that oversight, I will reintroduce legislation in the state House of Representatives to allow local officials to assess value on natural gas, oil and coal-bed methane. If the tax is implemented on the mining companies (not local property owners), I believe the money should stay in the local area from which it is derived, rather than be sent to the state's coffers, as proposed by Gov. Ed Rendell.
I also remain open to the possibility of a state severance tax on natural gas, but with the caveat that some of the money must be driven back to our local taxing entities. If the state is going to reap the benefits of the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom, our localities and subsequently local taxpayers also must benefit.
STATE REP. BILL DeWEESE
The writer is House majority whip and represents the 50th Legislative District.