Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gas and Gaming

Imagine an industry wants to move into your state. It has incredible potential for revenue generation and job creation plus ancillary benefits like increased hotel occupancy and small business opportunities. But with the good comes the bad, the industry will fuel additional costs, like overloading public safety. But some of those costs can be mitigated through preparation and smart regulation.

Pennsylvania has had two such opportunities in the past decade, but GOP leaders insist on treating them differently.

Early in the last decade when the gaming industry came knocking on PA’s door they could have gone to other states, but they decided on the Commonwealth. And since then households ACROSS Pennsylvania are benefitting, not just homeowners in a casino host municipality or county.

In the 5 years since Pennsylvania’s first slots parlor opened, the gaming industry has paid more than $1.3 billion annually in taxes, has directly created 15,000 Pennsylvanian jobs, and has actually surpassed New Jersey, Nevada and every other state in gaming revenue. The gaming industry also pays for gambling treatment, extra police services, a local revenue share and have spurred the rejuvenation of another entire industry, horse breeding.

Anecdotally, gaming enthusiasts have noted Jersey tour buses parked in Commonwealth casino lots.

And get this: PA taxes gaming at the highest rate in the nation. Interestingly enough political contributions from the gaming industry are banned in Pennsylvania.

So when you hear the Gov. Corbett and others argue that if we tax the natural gas industry (like EVERY other natural gas state does), they’ll pack up and leave, know that it is inaccurate and misleading.

Unlike the gaming industry, natural gas drillers have limited options on where they can locate. Pennsylvania is situated upon what is estimated to be the largest natural gas deposit in the world and alone could fuel the nation’s energy needs for a decade. The gas industry is here to stay even if there is a severance tax…they have said so publicly.

Natural gas is an abundant source of domestic clean energy, and the industry has created jobs and stimulated some local economies, but it has escaped paying its fair share (as it does in other states) for the negative effects of drilling including the increased burden on local emergency responders, the deterioration of our roadways and the degradation of the state’s water ways.

Senate GOP leaders have made implementing an impact fee they’re autumn priority, but their plan is limited, insufficient and would operate differently than other taxes levied by the state, and the governor’s “parameters” are designed for counties, not state government.

Why should an extraction fee favor one Pennsylvanian over another when all residents’ water supply is being polluted?

Why shouldn’t a portion of the tax levied on drillers go to serving the entire state, the same way a portion of the state’s gaming tax benefits people across the Commonwealth or tolls from the turnpike, or sales tax levied at large malls? And why are some GOP leaders still apprehensive to levy a tax that exists in every other state, and that even industry executives say are reasonable and expected?

Why does the GOP insist on treating the gas industry differently?

Could it be that we have not yet banned political contributions from this industry, or maybe we just need to banish Grover Norquist from the state?