Thursday, May 28, 2015

Guv's New Stand on Fees

Gov. Corbett tells a Pittsburgh newspaper he'd support using a fee on shale drillers to cap old wells throughout the state.

Guv's New Stand on Fees

(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

JB: Looks like the no tax/no fees Guv is leaning toward an impact fee on those Marcellus Shale drillers.

BE: Wait, I thought he campaigned on no taxes, no fees.

JB: You thought right, oh, wise thinker. In fact during a candidates' debate in Pittsburgh (moderated by yours truly), Corbett expanded his no-tax pledge to include fees. Here's a reminder.

BE: And, if I recall correctly, no-tax guru Grover Norquist, whose no-tax pledge Corbett signed, says an impact fee is a tax.

JB: Your recall skills are as solid as your thinking, boss. How do you do it? Norquist, when asked about a shale-drilling impact fee in May said, "Make no mistake, this proposal is a tax increase based on any honest and objective analysis." Here's a reminder.

BE: And now?

JB: Yesterday, the Guv told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in an exclusive interview, that using money from a proposed impact fee to cap and seal abandoned wells across the state makes sense.

BE: This is new, yes?

JB: Yes. And it brought an immediate response from Senate President Joe Scarnati who's pushing an impact fee. He called it a "major breakthrough."

BE: But how does the Guv get around his pledge?

JB: My guess is he argues the pledge was aimed at not putting new money from taxes or fees into the General Fund, and that a fee directed at a specific enviornmental concern is in the best interest of all citizens.

BE: Seems like a good guess.

JB: He also told the Trib-Review he'd like to see money from the sale of the State Stores go into transportation needs. Legislation is pending on such a sale and on an impact fee and both issues await the legislature's return next month.

BE: But I'm still confused. When is a fee not a tax and when is a tax not a fee?

JB: Depends upon what the meaning of the word "is" is. Here's a reminder. Grrrr.



Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
Also on
letter icon Newsletter