Education is important, but severance tax isn't the way to improve it in Pennsylvania

We need policies that will grow Pennsylvania's natural gas infrastructure to secure our status as a world-class energy hub.

The natural gas industry has jump started Pennsylvania's economy, creating hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs – many in the trade union fields.

The industry is already taxed – we call it an impact fee. This impact tax (which equates to a 4.7 percent tax, according to the Independent Fiscal Office) has generated more than $850 million in revenues that directly benefit every county. This is in addition to the more than $2 billion the industry has helped to add to state tax collections.

The Wolf administration's additional severance tax would have a detrimental impact on Pennsylvania's economy and competitive edge. The IFO recently testified that the proposal would result in the highest effective natural gas tax rate in the country.

The PA Chamber agrees that having a world class public education system is important. We can, and should, have a conversation on whether our education funding levels and allocation formulas are appropriate – but that discussion needs to be based on facts. According to the most recent U.S. Census data, Pennsylvania ranks in the top 10 in total per-pupil spend and spends more than $27 billion annually on education. In order to ensure more tax dollars are directed toward the classroom, we need to enact comprehensive pension reform.

If an additional severance tax is enacted, drillers will go to other states – taking direct and supply chain jobs with them – and Pennsylvanians will see higher energy costs.

GENE BARR, President & CEO, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, Harrisburg