Proponents of a natural gas severance tax argue the natural gas industry wields undue political influence in Harrisburg.
State representative Greg Vitali laments:
They [natural gas industry] just always seem to win, and to me it seems like they have undue influence due to the amounts they have to spend on lobbying.
The eight largest natural gas political action committees (PAC) reported spending $1.1 million in Pennsylvania during the 2016 election cycle, however, that amount pales in comparison to government union spending.
The thirteen largest government union PACs reported $7.8 million in political contributions. The Pennsylvania State Education Association alone more than doubled the spending of these natural gas PACs combined, spending $2.7 million compared to the natural gas industry's $1.1 million.
Unlike the natural gas industry and every other group seeking to influence Harrisburg, union leaders enjoy the unique political privilege of taxpayer-funded collection of compulsory membership dues and PAC contributions. No other group has this advantage.
In 2016, Pennsylvania government unions earmarked $9.8 million in dues money for “political activities and lobbying,” which includes advocating for increased taxation of natural gas drillers.
When it comes to lobbying, government unions and the natural gas industry spend comparable amounts. The industry, including the Marcellus Shale Coalition, reported $2.8 million in lobbying expenditures, while government unions spent $2.4 million.
Governor Wolf's severance tax proposals have stalled for two years because the tax kills jobs, not undue political influence. If lawmakers and other advocates are worried about leveling the political playing field they should support paycheck protection and end the use of taxpayer resources to collect money earmarked for politics.