– State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, said he is introducing legislation that would dedicate state funding to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP in Pennsylvania.
Specifically, the bill would implement a .10 per volume severance tax on natural gas extraction within the state. The tax would be levied on each one thousand cubic feet of natural gas extracted from a producing well.
"We're very high on list of states that producing natural gas, yet we have a very low severance fee to produce state dollars," Conklin said. "Two plus two does not equal four."
Under Conklin's proposal, the first $300 million in annual revenue would be dedicated to LIHEAP. Any remaining revenue, beyond the first $300 million, would be dedicated to the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program.
Conklin noted funding for LIHEAP, which is federally funded, has precipitously declined in recent years from $311 million in 2009 down to $203 million in 2014. In 2012, LIHEAP provided roughly 384,334 households with financial assistance, a decline of 242,635 households from the previous year. Currently, there are 1.5 million eligible households in Pennsylvania.
"Heating assistance is critical for Pennsylvania’s vulnerable seniors and families, and the abundance of natural gas in Pennsylvania, which is often utilized for heating purposes, provides an appropriate revenue source to supplement funding for LIHEAP," said Conklin. "This winter has been particularly unkind to Centre County and if there was a little extra help to fall back on, who could deny this bill could help make that happen?
"It's a win-win."
Once formally introduced, Conklin's proposal will be referred a House committee to begin the review process.