Commissioners Lobby Pa. House Members For Severance Tax Share

Potter County Today

Potter County Commissioners Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover made a personal appeal to all 203 members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday. They’re urging lawmakers to approve a carve-out of township and county shares when they decide how to allot revenue from the state’s new tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production across Pennsylvania. Potter is being held up as a county that has a lot to gain — or lose — depending on the outcome of the debate.

The decision to impose the tax was made by the state legislature. The commissioners have been contacting legislators to make the case for a portion of that revenue to be targeted to local governments in areas where gas is extracted, rather than having it flow into the state treasury.

“Although the industry is in its infancy in Potter County, we are beginning to feel the impact already in terms of added costs for the county and our townships,” the commissioners said in Monday’s letter to House members. “Based on the trends that have developed in areas where the industry has been more active, it’s clear that the financial impact will be intensifying here.

“Municipal governments are experiencing damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure, as well as increased demands on personnel.  At the county level, Human Services, Criminal Justice/Jail, Emergency Services, Recorder of Deeds, Tax Assessment, Planning and other departments have begun to experience the impact . . . We believe a strong case can be made for a local government carve-out in the distribution formula, both from the perspective of actual costs and on the principle of basic fairness. By designating a substantial share of the revenue from the severance/production tax for county and local governments where the gas production takes place, the legislature would be enabling local leaders to address their own particular needs.”

The commissioners have asked township supervisors and others who support the concept to share their views with members of the state legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell. Decisions on the severance/production tax structure and its distribution formula are before the General Assembly this week, since the state is counting on a portion of the revenue to balance its 2010-11 budget.

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