HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania's new "impact fee" on the booming natural gas drilling industry is expected to generate $224.5 million from wells in 2013, up 10 percent over last year, Gov. Tom Corbett's administration said Friday.
The projection is based on Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission data, and the money will be paid out July 1 to local governments and state agencies and programs.
The calculation comes as the prospect of slapping a bigger tax on the industry more in line with other gas-producing states is a common theme among the Democrats running for the party's nomination to challenge the Republican governor in the fall.
The idea has some currency among Pennsylvania Republicans, too. A GOP candidate for an open Senate seat in southeastern Pennsylvania, Tom McGarrigle, last week proposed a 4 percent severance tax on the industry, echoing the position of the Republican incumbent, Sen. Ted Erickson, who is not running for re-election.
"It's a position that has very strong support in that district, as well as a lot of areas in the southeast," Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said in an interview last week.
Many members of the Senate Republican caucus support a severance tax, but many others do not, and conversations in the caucus never became serious given Corbett's past opposition, Pileggi said. There has been no recent discussion in the caucus of advancing a severance tax, and none is planned, Pileggi said.
On Thursday, Corbett reiterated his opposition, suggesting that a tax would hurt the industry.
"What I hear is, 'we need to spend more so we need to tax more,'" Corbett said. "We need to grow the industries, all the industries of Pennsylvania."
Pennsylvania's Corbett also touted the destination of the money from Pennsylvania's fee as being better than that of states with a severance tax, noting more than 60 percent goes back to drilling communities.
In Ohio, lawmakers continue to debate a proposed severance tax. Republican Gov. John Kasich is calling for severance tax as high as 2.75 percent on Ohio's growing horizontal drilling industry to help offset his plan to reduce the rate of Ohio's income tax. House Republicans are proposing a lower taxation rate and some Democrats are calling for higher rates.
Fiscal experts have disagreed significantly on how much would be raised by increasing the severance tax rate on large-volume drillers to 2.75 percent.