Governor Proposes Natural Gas Severance Tax for Infrastructure, Emergency Improvements

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WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- Governor Tom Wolf came to Wilkes-Barre to pitch a plan for more highspeed internet, better roads, flood protection, and more.

He wants a severance tax on the natural gas industry to pay for the $4.5 billion plan.

This is the fifth time the governor has proposed a severance tax on the natural gas industry. All of his other proposals were rejected by the Republican-controlled legislature. He says he's using a different approach this time around.

The governor visited Luzerne County's Emergency Management building to announce his proposal of a severance tax that he says will bring in $4.5 billion in the next four years that will support Pennsylvania infrastructure improvements.

It's an initiative he calls "Restore Pennsylvania."

"$4.5 billion. There is no one, not in the state, not the federal government, no one, providing that kind of resources to the problems that affect us," said the governor.

Governor Wolf wants to tax companies that drill for natural gas. He says that money would go to fund several things across the state. One of the key issues the governor wants to focus on is natural disaster damage and protection.

"Just this past year, we had the first ice jam flood in 80 years here in Luzerne County and we also had a tornado here in Wilkes-Barre Township," said Luzerne County Manager David Pedri. "It comes down to preparation and making sure we have the necessary support for those type of things. It comes down to infrastructure. It comes down to the investment in strong infrastructure in order to move forward."

This initiative hits close to home for communities like West Pittston that have dealt with catastrophic flooding in the past.

"I know the governor talked about it. It's devastating," said West Pittston Mayor Tom Blaskiewicz. "It's awful to try to be there to help out and knowing that there's going to be some state dollars to help is welcome news."

This is the fifth time the governor has proposed a severance tax. The legislature has rejected it every time.

He says this time, he's taking a different approach and is proposing it as a bill using legislators from both sides of the aisle to try to push it through.

"I'm getting a different reaction coming at it from this angle than I have over the last four years. I've proposed a severance tax each of those four years as part of the budget and each of those four years, one way or another, it was focused on education. This year, its outside of the budget. It's focused on infrastructure and I think people in both parties appreciate that because this is a set of problems that does not discriminate against Republicans or Democrats. It's not just a rural or urban issue. It affects everybody," Gov. Wolf said.

The governor expects members of the legislature to introduce the bill sometime in February.

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