Governor Corbett Right to Disentangle “Impact Fee” from Growing Greener

In the coming weeks, Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to release his “local impact fee” proposal. It appears the governor’s on track to keep his “no new taxes” pledge to voters, while proposing a meaningful fee.

Last week, Capitolwire (subscription) reported that Gov. Corbett won’t be funding Growing Greener, a statewide environmental program, with the impact fee. Despite demands from legislators, the governor understands Growing Greener is unrelated to natural gas drilling.

Growing Greener subsidizes a wide range of projects, from alternative energy to downtown redevelopment — these project areas alone received more than $60 million. The program provided a Philadelphia County high school with $1 million for geothermal heating, and $250,000 for the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Outdoor Sculpture Garden. But I’m sure these pork projects aren’t motivating Southeast legislators’ strong desire for more funding.

It isn’t surprising the Renew Growing Greener Coalition, whose members benefit from Growing Greener grants, is lobbying to tax Marcellus Shale. But telling residents “there is perhaps no greater risk to Pennsylvania’s environment today than natural gas drilling” and framing Growing Greener as the solution is outright fraudulent.

Pennsylvania’s stringent laws and strict enforcement protects the environment, and ensure drilling companies are held responsible for environmental and infrastructure damages, not Growing Greener.

Moreoever, natural gas companies should not be required to sustain programs unrelated to the industry. An impact fee should measure actual impacts (costs of government) against what the industry is already paying in taxes, fees, and contributions to local infrastructure.

Gov. Corbett can keep his pledge by ensuring local communities have the option to impose an impact fee, rejecting a statewide severance tax. This ensures competition between local governments, as not to drive away investment to neighboring counties, and discourages excessive fee rates. And it guarantees that counties won’t be forced to raise fees in order to fund the state’s slush funds.