Heading into his final year in office, Gov. Rendell said he will again propose a tax on natural gas drilling and hinted that he may resurrect his proposal to raise the personal income tax to cope with the next wave of budget crises in the years ahead.

"We'll see," said Rendell, during a year-end press briefing, when asked if he planned to propose a tax increase in his February budget address.

But Rendell did say he would ask the legislature in 2010 to approve a tax on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale - the vast and potentially hugely lucrative gas reserve that lies beneath much of the state. That proposal was defeated last year after strenuous lobbying by the gas industry which argued it would harm an industry "in its infancy."

Rendell's income tax hike proposal was shot down by lawmakers of both parties this year. Instead - after a 101-day impasse - the legislature agreed to legalize table games as way to raise revenue and close a gap in the 2009-2010 budget, a promise that has yet been delivered with only seven weeks until Rendell is scheduled to deliver his 2010-2011 budget address.

Steve Miskin, a spokesman for House Republicans, said the caucus would fight any tax increase and would work to control government spending.

In a wide ranging discussion with reporters, Rendell assessed the past year (a difficult one economically, but touted gains in education and health care investment), looked toward life after politics (would serve as major league baseball commissioner if asked, otherwise teaching, writing, foundation work) and gave an update on his weight loss program (56 pounds and counting).

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