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Wolf lobbies lawmakers to pass shale-gas tax before summer

| Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 1:55 p.m.
Tom Wolf is a York County business owner and former Department of Revenue secretary.

HARRISBURG — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tom Wolf is one big step from the governor's mansion but he has started to lobby lawmakers for one of his priorities: levying a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas drilling.

Wolf, of York County, sent a letter to the General Assembly's 253 members on Tuesday, encouraging them to “put politics aside” and act quickly, since lawmakers must balance a budget by June 30 and deal with a deficit of up to $1.4 billion.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett opposes a shale-gas tax but an aide said he has not closed the door to the idea.

Corbett and Wolf face off in November.

Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver County, said he thinks that sending a campaign piece to lawmakers at their Capitol offices is a “step out of bounds.”

But Wolf's spokesman, Jeffrey Sheridan, said Wolf “believes the time is now to pass a severance tax to fund top priorities like education. The oil and gas companies should pay their fair share and we shouldn't wait for the next governor or the next legislature.”

Corbett spokesman Billy Pitman said: “We will add this letter to the long list of tax increases millionaire Secretary Tom Wolf is trying to pass on to Pennsylvanians, taking us back to the days when he lobbied the legislature for tax increases on sales, garbage, home heating fuels and electricity.

“His lack of a real vision for Pennsylvania's future is based on an increase in the personal income tax, a job-crushing cap-and-trade tax, and a severance tax he's already spent X-times over. There's nothing new here.”

Wolf is a former Revenue secretary under ex-Gov. Ed Rendell.

G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College, said he doesn't think a candidate appealing to the legislature on a key issue is unprecedented. He said a complaint about the propriety of the matter seems “trivial.”

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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