The buzz around Harrisburg is that the drilling tax bill sponsored by Republicans Tom Murt and Gene DiGirolamo had drawn 50 co-sponsors, including 18 House Republicans, by last week. The number for the bill is House Bill 1863. In the spring, a similar bill whose chief sponsor was Democrat Greg Vitali attracted more than 70 co-sponsors, but only a handful of Republicans.
Growing Republican support for a drilling tax is an important development.
The Murt and DiGirolamo bill would set drilling tax rates at levels slightly below the current drilling tax in West Virginia. It would raise more than $300 million at current levels of gas production and more than $500 million in a few years. Revenues would be used in local areas where drilling occurs, for statewide environmental programs, and other needs such as funding drug and alcohol treatment.
Tom Murt is from Montgomery County and Gene DiGirolamo is from Bucks County. Support for a gas drilling tax in their area exceeds 70%. Governor Corbett's drilling fee plan would likely put Murt, DiGirolamo and other Republicans from the eastern third of Pennsylvania on a political hot seat at least and even cause the election defeat of some.
The politics swirling around the gas drilling tax issue will intensify in 2012, now less than 3 months away.