It is pretty much a given at this point that Gov. Tom Corbett has no intention of taxing his friends in the oil industry who are fracking Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region for natural gas, to raise much-needed revenue for the state.
The Republican governor is unmoved by the fact that Pennsylvania is the only oil-drilling state in the nation without an extraction tax or by the fact that there is strong bi-partisan support for such a tax in the state legislature.
For example, both candidates for the seat of state Sen. Ted Erickson, of Newtown — Democrat John Kane and Republican Tom McGarrigle — have made it clear they support a severance tax on gas drilling.
But since he took office in 2011, Corbett has refused to go down this obvious avenue for defraying what has now become an anticipated $1.3 billion budget shortfall, opting instead over the years to slash education and human service funding.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone either that the governor has proposed raising $75 million for the commonwealth through additional leasing of mineral rights in state parks and forests for “non-surface impact” natural gas drilling.
What is odd is Corbett’s apparent determination to keep secret what companies will be doing the drilling, in what parks and forests, on how many acres and how he reached the $75 million figure.
Delaware County state Rep. Greg Vitali, of Haverford, who is the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, filed a Right-to-Know request for the details of the governor’s proposal with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Corbett, via the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, filed an appeal of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records decision with Commonwealth Court, which begs the question, what is the governor trying to hide?
Taxpayers have a right to know exactly how the governor is planning to raise funds for the commonwealth and at what cost to their state parks and forests.
Vitali maintains that Corbett is trying to run out the clock so he does not have to reveal the details of his drilling plan before it would be voted on as part of the state budget on June 30.
If that is not the case, the governor should not be wasting taxpayers’ time and money by going to court to keep them in the dark. In doing so, Corbett is once again demonstrating that business interests take priority over the concerns of his constituents.