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Gas industry group poll shows majority against severance tax

Just under half of Pennsylvanians support a severance tax on natural gas drilling, but that number plummets to only 29 percent when residents think job losses will result, according to a poll commissioned by the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

“Voters want the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania to grow,” concluded pollsters Anderson Robbins Research, a Democratic-polling firm in Boston. “There is a strong preference among voters of all ideologies to help the state budget by encouraging more use of natural gas and growing jobs within the industry, as opposed to adding new taxes on natural gas.”

The poll of 804 state voters between Feb. 19 and 22 comes a few weeks after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced his long-awaiting plan to have the Legislature impose a 5 percent severance tax on wells and a 4.7 cents tax on every thousand cubic feet of gas extracted.

Wolf estimates the taxes would generate an estimated $1 billion to fund education. Tax opponents, though, claim his predictions are unrealistic in the current market climate and they warn that additional taxes would hurt the drilling industry’s growth in the state.

In the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percent, 49 percent of respondents said they initially favored a severance tax while 35 percent opposed and 15 percent had no opinion. Sixty-three percent of Democrats favored a tax compared to 33 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of independents.

After being asked if they still favored a tax if it resulted in job losses, the approval of a tax fell to just 29 percent while 64 percent opposed it. Those strong Democratic numbers dropped to 39 percent and Republican support for a tax bottomed out at 16 percent with 28 percent of independents still approving of it.

When asked to choose between natural gas industry job growth and “higher taxes to fund the state budget,” 67 percent of voters chose job growth over new taxes (26 percent). After listening to arguments for and against a severance tax, 51 percent said it is the wrong time to raise taxes while 42 percent said it is the right time.

Fifty-eight percent of Democrats said it was the right time to raise taxes compared to 35 percent against. Republican voters overwhelmingly said it was the wrong time to raise taxes, 68 percent, compared to 26 percent saying it was the right time.

“There are very strong arguments on both sides of this debate,” pollster wrote. “But at the end of the day, if voters hear from both sides, the research suggests a majority of voters will end up siding with those who think this is the wrong time to raise taxes on the industry.”

In related news, Wolf severance tax keeps impact fee distribution.

This article was written by J.D. Prose from Beaver County Times, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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