More Taxpayer Funded Propaganda

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has an email newsletter on Marcellus Shale (see PA Indy story). I, of course, signed up to see how my tax dollars were being spent.

Rather than simply being a government-run news service, the emails come across pretty clearly as taxpayer-funded propaganda, used to lobby for higher taxes on Pennsylvanians.

Their latest edition starts:

Gas Industry Lobbying for Lucrative Tax Breaks

With a vote on a severance tax expected by Oct. 1, gas companies are already lobbying to avoid paying their fair share. The proposals – circulated by the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry-financed group – would reportedly exempt proceeds from deep natural gas wells from taxes for the first three years of production – the period when output and revenues for the companies are greatest.

Clearly, they do not understand what a tax break is. A tax break exempts you from taxes other companies are already paying. An example is the film tax credit. Another example is the helicopter exemption in the sales tax.

By contrast, natural gas companies are subject to all the same taxes as every other business, and they are fighting off a severance tax (or at least for a less onerous version of such a tax) that would apply to their industry and no other, not even other forms of energy and natural resource extraction.

Furthermore, the term “fair share” – and the idea gas companies aren’t paying theirs – is loaded rhetoric frequently used by Gov. Rendell and his shills. How much is “fair”? Is it more than gas drillers are paying in corporate or personal income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, Capital Stock and Franchises Taxes, royalties, lease payments, bonding for roads, licensing fees with DEP, and fines for violations? If so, why is that? Shouldn’t DEP quantify how much gas drillers should be paying and contrast that with how much they are already paying?

Instead, DEP cites the left-wing Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a group backed by the recipients of tax dollars that always lobbies for more taxes, to claim that gas companies’ “fair share” is more. Interestingly, PBPC rejects some states and points to Wyoming as the model for implementing a severance tax in Pennsylvania.

Of course Wyoming has no Corporate Income Tax and no Personal Income Tax – a trade off I think any natural gas company, and every other business and resident, would be happy to make.