As lawmakers leave for holiday, fate of Pa. severance tax unclear

Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg (WITF)

Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg (WITF)

Debate may have begun in the state House on a natural gas severance tax — but it remains to be seen if that will actually result in a final vote.

Lawmakers left the question wide open before breaking for Thanksgiving.

There are nearly 400 amendments filed to the tax proposal — and members still haven’t considered the vast majority of them.

Some have wondered whether Republican leaders — who oppose the tax — actually intend to get everything done, or if the brief consideration is just meant to get the plan out of the way.

House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin said it’s a serious effort.

“We could take it up when we get back in December,” he said. “At the moment, that’s the plan.”

But he can’t predict exactly how long it would take.

“Maybe another two weeks, maybe a year … nah I’m joking,” Miskin said. “I would not expect hundreds more [amendments] to be debated. Hopefully not as many as people might think.”

Bill Patton, a spokesman for House Democrats, said he thinks it’s clear the commonwealth is getting closer to enacting a severance tax.

He said his members are feeling a “mixture of hope and concern” about the tax’s fate, and added that many of them — as well as moderate Republican supporters — are uncomfortable with amendments that would make it easier for gas companies to get environmental permits.

“We’ll try to repair this flaw as work continues on this bill next month,” he said.

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