Labor union protests Pa. budget framework, calling for shale tax

 Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says he would have liked to include a personal income tax hike and a tax on gas drillers in the budget deal, but those measures lack support in the Legislature. (AP file photo)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says he would have liked to include a personal income tax hike and a tax on gas drillers in the budget deal, but those measures lack support in the Legislature. (AP file photo)

Some of Gov. Tom Wolf’s friends in organized labor are making some noise about the lack of a Marcellus Shale drilling tax in the emerging Pennsylvania state budget framework.

About three dozen members of Philadelphia school district’s blue-collar union marched on the Capitol in Harrisburg Tuesday, calling for the additional levy on the natural gas industry. Energy companies successfully avoided an additional tax in the tentative budget package still being negotiated between Wolf’s administration and Republican legislative leaders. Opponents of the tax cited low natural gas prices and the state’s existing impact fee on each well drilled.

Denise Bennett has seen shale tax proposals come and go while she’s been a cleaner for the Philadelphia schools (she’s had the job 17 years), but she had hoped Wolf could secure the shale tax and do what he promised on the campaign trail: find extra funding for education.

“The teachers are working hard, we’re working hard, and we need that funding for us to succeed,” said Bennet. “That’s why I’m out here today — to fight for my generation, the next generation, and generation to come.”

Other members of Bennett’s SEIU chapter were quick to point out that their latest contract included significant wage concessions, requiring them to give between $5 and $45 back to the school system every week.

“And what it looks like to us?” said Jim Whitehead, a maintenance mechanic with the school district. “We care about the children, but the legislators in Harrisburg — and the drillers that are taking the gold out of our ground — don’t.”

Some Philadelphia lawmakers have also objected to proposed sales tax increase in the tentative budget framework. It would bring the city’s levy to 9.25 percent. Wolf has said he would have liked to include a personal income tax hike and a tax on gas drillers, but those measures lack support in the Legislature.

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