Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ired by lack of shale tax, enviros storm Pa lobbying firm

Environmentalists and labor union members, outraged by the lack of a shale gas tax in PA Governor Tom Corbett's proposed budget, yesterday stormed the Harrisburg offices of former Governor Tom Ridge, where the gas industry's Marcellus Shale Coalition maintains its operations.

Here's how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Tracie Mauriello saw it:
"Clutching protest signs and chanting slogans, the activists marched into the Ridge Policy Group offices, a block from the Capitol. Pouring through the door, they began taking over rooms and stairwells, demanding that someone from the lobbying firm speak to them.

"Upstairs floorboards creaked and groaned under feet that stomped in rhythm to a cacophony of chants, some emitted over bullhorns.

"The scene epitomized the polarizing effect of the $27.3 billion spending plan that Mr. Corbett unveiled Tuesday to the outrage of environmentalists, state workers, educators and college students."

Mauriello said that the protesters message was that it is unconscionable for current Gov. Tom Corbett to slash education funding and lay off state workers when energy companies aren't paying taxes on the natural gas they extract.

In doing so, the governor stuck to his campaign pledge to not raise a single tax - including no new levy or fee on natural gas extraction. At the same time, he called for layoffs, wage freezes, and some of the deepest cuts in memory for public schools and colleges. That prompted Democrats and some interest groups to accuse him of balancing the budget on the backs of students and the middle class.
 
"We'll be back," the activists warned as the group finally left about 15 minutes later with chants of "No Free Pass for Oil and Gas." They left a mock invoice for the millions in taxes they say could have been collected from an extraction tax.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Angela Couloumbis notes:
"Despite the noise, Corbett will still have the wind of politics at his back - both legislative chambers are controlled by members of his own party. That bodes well for the new governor as he seeks to implement his agenda.
"Still, some top Republicans in the Senate have signaled that there will be, at the very least, a debate as they negotiate the budget on whether and how much to tax natural gas extraction."

Related:
Lack of tax on gas decried; Protesters storm Marcellus Shale lobbying firm
Budget-cut protesters occupy Tom Ridge's offices

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