Industry, education advocates face off over gas tax

  • Marie Cusick
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Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Iraq war veteran Tony Caldarelli began arguing with education advocates who interrupted him at a pro-gas rally in Harrisburg Tuesday.

Dueling rallies between the natural gas industry and public education advocates sparked some heated exchanges at the state Capitol Tuesday. Education advocates disrupted a pro-gas rally and drowned out speakers by shouting, “Tax the shale!”

Iraq war veteran Tony Caldarelli fired back, saying that the United States has sought more energy security since the 1970s.

“Are you afraid of my message? You can’t listen to me?” he asked them.

Education advocates shouted "tax the shale!" during a pro-gas rally.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Education advocates like Dawn Hawkins of Philadelphia shouted "Tax the shale!" during a pro-gas rally.

Dawn Hawkins was among the parents from Philadelphia.

“Guess what? When we got rid of Governor Corbett, we got a new governor who believes in taxing the shale, and believe me they’re going to get taxed. Our kids don’t have nurses, counselors, libraries, books. It’s just sad.”

The disputes took place against the backdrop of a bigger budget battle.

Governor Wolf is proposing a new production tax on the gas industry to boost funding to public education. But as the June 30th budget deadline looms, the first term Democrat is still far apart from the Republican-controlled legislature on many issues, including the tax.

The pro-gas rally was organized by business groups to oppose Wolf’s severance tax and highlight the economic benefits the drilling boom has brought to Pennsylvania.

“We talk a lot about the lack of civility in politics,” said Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “What is putting a capstone on that is to try and shout down an Iraqi war veteran who has served our country.”

Industry groups pointed out gas companies and supply chain firms employ tens of thousands of workers in Pennsylvania, and drillers already pay an impact fee which has brought in an average for $213 million per year.

 

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