As Governor Tom Corbett delivered his fourth budget address, five democratic candidates looking to unseat him this November competed to slam his economic policies, especially Corbett’s rejection of a severance tax on the state’s booming natural gas industry.
“This being an election year, I suppose it’s in the realm of possibility that a few disagreements might come into the picture again,” Corbett told the legislature Tuesday morning. “But so far as the budget of this commonwealth is concerned, our business is in the here and now.”
Not so, argued the democratic hopefuls at a forum on jobs and the economy hosted by StateImpact Pennsylvania partner WHYY and the Philadelphia Business Journal.
Candidates Katie McGinty, Jo Ellen Litz, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, John Hanger and Tom Wolf were careful not to insult each other as they took turns arguing why they believe Corbett’s conservative fiscal policies have failed. (Candidate Max Myers declined to attend and State Treasurer Rob McCord was in Harrisburg for the governor’s budget address.)
“There is a perpetual myth out there that the way you compete and win business is you do two things: you roll back taxes and you roll back regulations,” said McGinty, former head of the Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Ed Rendell. “If there was ever a compelling example as to how that is exactly not right, let’s look at Governor Corbett’s record with respect to shale gas.”
All five candidates agreed Corbett missed an opportunity by not charging a severance tax on the state’s booming natural gas industry as other states have done. McGinty, Hanger, Wolf and Schwartz all said they would support a 5 percent severance tax, while Litz proposed a rate of 6 percent or the median of all states that tax shale gas.
Corbett has defended the state’s impact fee system, which charges drillers a flat amount for every well with most of that revenue going to the communities that host the drilling.
The tax came up throughout the forum as a primary way to restore deep cuts to education aid and to boost the state’s budget. To read more from the forum, click here.