Rendell pushes for deal on drilling tax
HARRISBURG - The governor got his meeting. But he didn't get his deal. Gov. Rendell on Monday met with a small group of legislators and representatives from the natural-gas industry in hopes of resuscitating talks on taxing the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
HARRISBURG - The governor got his meeting. But he didn't get his deal.
Gov. Rendell on Monday met with a small group of legislators and representatives from the natural-gas industry in hopes of resuscitating talks on taxing the extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
In the end, no consensus emerged.
But the governor, through a spokesman, called the meeting, which lasted about an hour, a "terrific discussion" and said he believed the group made "significant progress" toward a deal.
"He's still working hard toward getting a [natural-gas tax] passed soon," spokesman Gary Tuma said Monday.
The realities are not that simple.
Absent from Monday's meeting were Republicans who control the Senate - key players in reaching any compromise on a tax bill.
And the Senate is in session for only three days this week, after which its members are scheduled to recess for the Nov. 2 election.
Senate leaders have said it is unlikely they will add session days before that time. And they have made it crystal-clear that they will not return to this issue after the election.
For all practical purposes, that means a bill must pass this week if it is to be approved this year.
Notwithstanding Rendell's invitation, Senate Republicans did not attend Monday's meeting because it was Columbus Day, a state holiday.
Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), said last week that GOP leaders were willing to sit down with the governor first thing Tuesday, and that they did not believe that missing the Columbus Day meeting would cost "a single moment of time in terms of the legislative calendar."
Tuma said Rendell was expected to meet with Senate leaders Tuesday.
That meeting could be a busy one. They still have many issues to work out.
Rendell originally proposed a 5 percent tax on sales of the extracted gas, and an additional 4.7 cents for every 1,000 cubic feet of gas produced.
Since then, he has said he would also support a Democrat-backed proposal approved last month by the House that calls for a levy of 39 cents per 1,000 cubic feet (or roughly 10 percent) of natural gas produced.
Senate Republicans have branded the House bill "ridiculous." Last week, they sent Rendell a counterproposal that calls for a 1.5 percent tax on the market value of gas from wells producing more than 150,000 cubic feet of gas. That rate would apply for the first five years of production, at which point the tax would increase to 5 percent.
Tuma has said the governor does not consider the Senate GOP's counterproposal "a reasonable tax" and would veto it.