“When is a tax not a tax? When it’s a fee.”

“When is a tax not a tax.  When it’s a fee.” is the opening line in an article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, New Pa. GOP leaders eye a fee on natural gas instead of a tax  (click here for article)

Terminology may be significant for the newly elected Pennsylvania Governor.  The debate continues on whether ‘fees’ on Marcellus Shale gas drilling would break Tom Corbett’s no-tax pledge.  Now that Corbett has won the election for governor and will be confronted with a $5 billion budget deficit, will he most likely be OK with a ‘fee’ on the gas drilling. 

But is calling it a fee rather than a tax just a matter of semantics?  Will Corbett’s no-tax pledge still stand with the institution of a fee based schedule?  During his campaign, Corbett stated that fees were included in his no-tax pledge.  Has the newly elected governor backed himself in to a corner over Marcellus Shale?

A leading opponent of taxes on Pennsylvania’s emerging shale-gas industry, it is interesting to note that Corbett collected over $800,000  in campaign contributions from that industry, according to a study by two civic groups,  Common Cause and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania. Corbett’s total campaign contributions from the shale-gas industry represented more than all other Pennsylvania candidates combined.  Do we think these campaign dollars will influence Corbett’s decisions about Marcellus Shale taxing?

Pennsylvania is now the only state with substantial mineral resources that does not levy a severance tax or fee, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a nonpartisan research agency based in Harrisburg.

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