The Raging Chicken Press sent a questionnaire focusing on Rob McCord’s proposed 10 percent drillers tax to the McCord Campaign, and campaign has sent their response. The questionnaire looked at the rhetoric behind the “drillers tax,” how a drillers tax would restore public education and higher education cuts and how the tax can be used to fix problems at the Department of Environmental Protection, but before I get into the responses, let me explain where I stand in the ongoing “drillers tax vs. moratorium” debate.
For the past year, I have publicly supported the idea of using a drillers, severance or extraction tax to fund public and higher education. I mostly wrote about using the generated revenue for supporting higher education, and since the beginning of the recession, North Dakota and Wyoming have used revenues to invest in higher education. I am in the “drillers tax camp,” but I do not believe that natural gas is a “bridge fuel” to greener pastures. Methane is a greenhouse gas and scientific literature shows that fugitive methane emissions is equivalent to burning coal. I would support a moratorium in the Marcellus and Utica Shales, but I do not agree with the strategy and tactics those in Pennsylvania’s environmental community are pursuing. Getting a moratorium through Harrisburg will take an enormous amount of energy by winning the governor’s race and flipping the House and Senate, which are gerrymandered in the Republican Party’s favoring. This option will take years to accomplish and probably won’t happen until the maps are redrawn in 2020. The second reason I will not jump into the moratorium fight is the strategy and tactics those in the environmental community are pursuing. Signing online petitions and holding permitted sidewalk demonstrations aren’t going to change the hearts and minds of those in Harrisburg. Lastly, I believe that the environmental community in Pennsylvania should be pushing really hard for renewable and solar projects. Unlike a moratorium, pushing for solar and renewables is a progressive solution at meeting our energy demands. In our current political climate, a moratorium will be seen as a regressive stance that will not meet our energy demands. With that being said, here is a breakdown on Rob McCord’s 10 percent drillers tax proposal.
Allyson Schwartz, Katie McGinty and Tom Wolf have gone on the record supporting a “moderate” 5 percent tax, and they all acknowledge that revenues generated from this tax should go towards supporting public education. On her campaign website, Schwartz acknowledges that Texas has the largest extraction in the country, but said that we should be like West Virginia by having a “moderate” severance tax. After Schwartz went public with her tax plan, McGinty’s campaign manager, and former energy industry executive, Mike Mikus, released a statement agreeing with Schwartz’s proposal because Pennsylvania is competing for jobs with West Virginia and Ohio. That’s all fine and dandy, but the gas ain’t growing a pair of legs and traveling over the Pennsylvania border. The resource is locked in the ground and will be coming out sooner or later. Out of all the candidates, McCord’s “Drillers Tax” goes above and beyond what any other candidate has proposed when it comes to levying a tax on the gas industry and using revenues for education.
Why “Drillers Tax?”
At the April MontCo Democracy for America meeting, Rob McCord explained the rhetoric and framing behind a “drillers tax” as opposed to a “severance tax” or “extraction tax,” and it’s pretty simple. The term “drillers tax” is easier for non-politicos to figure out the “who” and “what.” When asked about this topic, the campaign wrote:
Rob decided to call it a drillers’ tax instead of a severance or extraction tax because it’s clearer than the alternatives. We’re talking about asking the drillers to pay their fair share in exchange for giving them the right to make billions in profits from our natural resources. Drillers’ tax is plain, simple language that’s easy to understand.
What is the model for the legislation?
The campaign began to look at what other states, like Oklahoma and Maryland, were doing with their early childhood education programs. We then looked at the research to see what programs work the best to help children succeed and what programs offer the greatest return on the state’s investment. And finally, we talked to educators and education leaders across the state to get their thoughts before we finalized our legislative model.
How would the money generated be used to restore education funding? Would the revenue generated from a tax be placed into the general fund or would it be specifically earmarked for public education?
The full list of programs targeted for additional resources is available at www.robmccord.com/downloads/education. We’re certainly open to a discussion about the best way to apply the new funds, aside from what is sent directly to communities, but Rob believes that the most efficient option is to deposit the dedicated money for education into the general fund.
How would higher education funding be implemented in this as well? I know that McCord touched up on this at his MontCo DFA appearance, but would there be money specifically earmarked for higher education funding or will the funding come from the General Fund?
In the near future, we will announce our higher education plan, but you can expect new funds for community colleges, public universities, and direct support for students pursuing degrees in high-demand fields.
Department of Environmental Protection and Environment
How will the McCord campaign – or governorship – revitalize the Department of Environmental protection? Will the DEP see budget increases?
Restoring Tom Corbett’s cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection is one of Rob’s priorities. He will begin by assessing the permitting fee structure that is currently in place to make sure the fees reflect the true cost of the service the drillers are receiving and the workload burden it creates for the department.
Will McCord hire more regulators and natural gas inspectors, and how will McCord change the way the DEP is operated?
Rob wants to look at the fee structure to 1) ensure that the industry is adequately compensating the commonwealth for the work required to evaluate their permit applications, and 2) ensure we have sufficient personnel to do this critically important work. As governor, Rob will nominate a DEP secretary who has a strong background in environmental protection and is committed to making scientifically based decisions. He will not nominate someone for political purposes. Rob wants to see regulatory oversight authority restored to trained inspectors in the field, rather than allowing crucial decisions to be delayed because a bureaucrat in Harrisburg needs to sign off on the decision.
Will this come from giving DEP employees pay raises, making their salaries and benefits more comparable to their private sector counterparts?
Rob understands the frustrations working families are facing when it comes to making ends meet, and he wants to find the best talent to do the job. He believes all hardworking public servants should be treated and compensated fairly and he will, to the best of his ability, work within the confines of the budget to hire, keep, and promote the best workforce.