Gov. Tom Wolf campaigned on a promise to pump $1 billion into public education, and he was in Monroeville Monday promoting his plan to do just that.
Wolf has proposed severance tax of 5 percent plus 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet of natural gas extracted. He said the Independent Fiscal Authority determined that would amount to an overall tax of about 5.8 percent.
“This is a reasonable tax,” Wolf said. “It’s competitive and actually below that of states surrounding us. It’s well below what Texas is charging. Any time there is change we human beings are reluctant to embrace change. We have questions, and I think they’re legitimate questions. I think I have good answers.”
Wolf did not immediately have in-depth answers for anti-fracking activists who attended the news conference and pressed him about the health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.
But he did say he wanted to put some of the revenue generated by the tax into the Department of Environmental Protection and into efforts to “build a bridge to a sustainable energy future.”
If such a tax is passed by the Legislature this year, Wolf said the lion’s share would go to education. In fact, he will include projected revenue from the fee in his 2015-16 budget proposal, which is set to be released in March. However, the first full budget year for the tax would not be until 2016-17.
“I know money is not the end all and be all, it’s only one thing, but we cannot disinvest in education and hope to get to a good place,” Wolf said. “We have to have this education system work for all of us, and the start of that is to make sure that we put money back into our educational system.”
Wolf said he is confident that the Republican-controlled Legislature will seriously consider his proposal.
“I think it’s time for participation between the citizens of Pennsylvania and the industry, and I think people on both sides of the aisle recognize that,” Wolf said.