When is a fee a tax? When Grover Norquist says so.

The Inquirer reported last week that antitax guru Norquist was the wizard behind the Oz-like fiscal contortions of the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania legislature, which has refused to consider raising revenue of any kind.

It was Norquist and his D.C.-based group, Americans for Tax Reform, who advanced the "no tax" pledge signed by hundreds of elected officials, including Gov. Corbett and 34 members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

The state House has buried any proposals to place a levy on Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction.

But this month Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) bit the bullet and offered a shale gas "impact fee" with proceeds to go to affected areas.

Over in the governor's office, Corbett remains unwavering, but in recent months has shown some hint of openness - if not support - to an "impact fee."

Until now. Because Grover - arbiter of all things fiscal throughout the land - said so.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday reported that Norquist sent a letter to Sen. Mary Jo White (R., Venango), whose committee would have to consider the shale fee, pronouncing it, in fact, a tax.

"Make no mistake, this proposal is a tax increase based on any honest and objective analysis," Norquist wrote.

"As such, a vote in favor of Senate Bill 1100 also represents a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a commitment which Gov. Corbett and 34 members of the legislature have made to their constituents to impose any and all efforts to raise taxes."

Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley told the Post-Gazette that the governor was awaiting the report of his Marcellus Shale Commission, after the budget deadline June 30, before making up his mind.

- Amy Worden
As Chrysler repaid $5.8 billion in U.S. taxpayer loans Tuesday, Democrats hailed President Obama for rescuing the domestic automobile industry in 2009.

The administration saved millions of jobs and preserved a big part of the Midwestern manufacturing base, former Democratic Govs. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Ted Strickland of Ohio said in a conference call with reporters.

Mitt Romney came in for particular attack for his op-ed titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

"When Michigan families and communities needed his help most, Romney saw this as an opportune moment to earn some conservative credentials," Granholm said.

- Tom Fitzgerald