THORNDALE (February 11) – State Senator Andy Dinniman today issued the following statement in support of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to use revenue from a proposed natural gas severance tax to fund public education in Pennsylvania.
“I fully support Gov. Wolf’s plan to enact a reasonable 5 percent severance tax on natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale and to invest that revenue in our schools, which have weathered significant funding cuts in recent years.
The Commonwealth sits atop one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world, yet we are only reaping a fraction of the benefits realized by our neighboring state. By implementing a tax that is on par with our neighbors, we can restore desperately needed support and resources to our schools while staying economically competitive. A similar tax structure is already working in West Virginia, where the natural gas industry continues to boom. With the abundance of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, there is no reason to believe a sensible tax will diminish production or interest in drilling here in Pennsylvania.
As minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, I have seen firsthand the horrendous impact of funding cuts to public schools throughout Pennsylvania, especially those that lack an adequate tax base. As a result, our schools have been cut to the bone, meaning larger class sizes, fewer teachers and reductions to vital programs. All the while, homeowners have been forced to pick up the slack in the form of rising property taxes. In fact, the governor made today’s announcement in the Coatesville Area School District – a perfect example of a district with a high property tax rate but low real estate value. This is exactly the kind of inequity so many school districts across the Commonwealth are experiencing and the governor’s Education Reinvestment Plan can help close the gap.
Recently, I learned of a high school in Philadelphia where students lacked certified teachers, were using decade-old textbooks and hadn’t taken a science lab in years. A reasonable natural gas severance tax can provide the revenue stream necessary to adequately fund public education in Pennsylvania. The fact that the Commonwealth currently ranks 45th in the nation in the percentage of funding the state provides to public education does not only show that we are shortchanging our students; It shows that we are passing the buck to homeowners in the form of increased local school property taxes.”