Jezree Friend is the Manufacturer & Business Association’s government relations representative and is responsible for developing legislative priorities and strategies; encouraging membership grassroots activities; and lobbying on behalf of a pro-growth, pro-business agenda. Contact him at email@example.com.
As he hums the 1980s hit, “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake, Governor Tom Wolf continues to deprive Pennsylvania from achieving its economic potential as an energy powerhouse. In his effort to take what is not his, politically disguised by words like “fee and tax” and rhetoric such as “Fair Share,” he moves to add a new 4-percent severance tax on natural gas companies. Since the impact tax has been implemented on natural gas in 2013, Pennsylvania has been the recipient of more than $1.5 billion in revenue. But why stop there? This additional tax, when added together, would crown Pennsylvania the highest taxed state in the industry.
Wolf is joined in his efforts by Pennsylvania’s public sector unions. Ironically, they are the same groups who graciously dumped $7.9 million into his re-election campaign. Not to be confused with trade unions, these organizations are funded by tax dollars. These tax funded, politically biased forces are concerned about keeping their swollen public pensions intact. Their $74-billion price tag in unfunded liability designates them public enemy No. 1 to Pennsylvania’s fiscal longevity. I mean, even though this tax will raise energy costs for millions of Pennsylvanians, as long as they get theirs, who cares?
Wolf’s new favorite phrase, “What lies beneath the ground belongs to all of us” could not be more wrong. Contrary to Vladimir Lenin’s beliefs, I can’t claim the contents of my neighbor’s garage because he has a 1957 Chevy Bel Air, my dream car. If you can follow this line of reasoning, we are in agreement the state cannot steal, I mean tax, our resources for personal reasons.
Wolf projects the tax to generate $250 million in the next fiscal year. However, the state’s Independent Fiscal Office reported Pennsylvania has around $440 million to $640 million in extra spending compared to last year at the same time. Aware of this, Wolf openly admits the severance tax is not needed to balance the budget; he just wants an extra $250 million for, wait for it, roads and bridges.
If he wants more money, sort of like how business owners want to keep their profits, why ignore common-sense economics? Instead of attempting a stranglehold on the industry, provide a pro-business, pro-growth climate.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate sits at 4.7 percent, around 297,490 workers. If a pro-growth governor would allow these companies to keep their profits to invest back into their ventures, it’s conceivable new jobs would become a byproduct. More workers equals more taxable income. If unemployment was reduced by one-half percent, it would result in 32,000 jobs. At market-rate salaries, this comes out to a conservative $1.28 billion of taxable income. Between real-estate and consumer products to be purchased by the newly employed, there are a plethora of further taxes just waiting to be consumed by the tapeworm that is the state government’s appetite for our money.
If we disregard this revolutionary idea for job growth, it should be noted, a recent economic study, Forge the Future, found maximizing Pennsylvania’s energy opportunity could expand GDP by $60 billion a year, create 100,000 additional jobs and increase receipts to the state Treasury by $2 billion to $3 billion annually. Governor Wolf’s “plan” would be a blatant disregard for our future. Hopefully, awarding Pennsylvania gas companies the title of “highest taxed in the country” won’t cement any plans to leave our state.