Pa. lawmakers slog toward gas tax agreement

    Governor Ed Rendell says if GOP and Democrat cannot work out consensus on natural gas severance tax, “Shame on us.”

    Emerging from the latest round of natural gas severance tax negotiations Wednesday, Governor Ed Rendell said he was feeling more hopeful about a bill becoming law in Pennsylvania this year.

    Rendell, who said House Democrats and Senate Republicans are moving closer to agreement on key issues, said he’s confident lawmakers can figure out the logistics of who passes what bill when — if they can compromise on the tax rate and revenue distribution.

    “If we reach agreement on the other stuff, I believe we will find a procedure,” Rendell said. “If we don’t find a procedure, shame on us. The citizens should line us up and put us in front of a firing squad.

    Senate Republicans don’t completely share Rendell’s optimism. A top GOP staffer said talks were progressing, but the two sides still have a lot of issues to hammer out.

    Drew Crompton says Senate Republicans still aren’t on board with Rendell’s proposed tax rate, which would start at three percent and increase to five percent.

    “Was more progress made today than yesterday? Probably so. But it’s important for me to emphasize that we didn’t agree to a three. four, five rate. We have this 10 percent issue,” said Crompton. “We have other distribution issues that many have said will be more contentious than the rate.”

    The 10 percent issue refers to an exemption for the cost of getting gas from the well to the market. Senate Republicans want the entire cost deducted from a tax, but Rendell is pushing for a 10 percent maximum.

    In order for the tax to become law, the House and Senate would need to add more session days in the three weeks before Election Day.

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