Ridge With Onorato, Not Corbett, On Gas Tax Plan

Well this can't be very convenient for state Attorney General Tom Corbett, the Republican nominee for governor in Tuesday's general election.  Former Gov. Tom Ridge told John Micek, the Morning Call of Allentown's man in Harrisburg, yesterday that an extraction tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling in the state would not harm taxpayers or the industry and help pay for environmental impacts.

If that sounds familiar, it's because that is the position of Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, the Democratic nominee for governor.  One key area of disagreement between the candidates has been the extraction tax.  Onorato wants to keep it out of the state's general fund, using it only for environmental regulation, infrastructure repairs in areas where drilling occurs and and a fund to preserve open land.  Corbett flatly rejects any type of tax, even though every state with significant natural gas drilling has one, claiming that it will harm an industry that can create 80,000 jobs in the state.

Ridge, who endorsed Corbett last year, would know at least a little about the subject, since he is a "strategic adviser" to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry lobbying group.  Onorato's camp jumped on the issue today, accusing Corbett of running false attack ads on television accusing the Democrat of supporting a "massive energy tax that will increase utility rates and kill jobs."

Onorato also pointed out that Corbett has taken $850,000 in campaign contributions from the natural gas industry. “Tom Corbett is steadfast in doing the bidding of his Big Oil & Gas donors,” the Onorato campaign e-mailed reporters.

UPDATE, 1 pm:  Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley responds: "Tom Corbett is against a severance tax. Period.  He respects and admires Gov. Ridge, however they disagree on this issue."