Monday, September 26, 2011

Sen. Scarnati Tells PA Press Club Fall Priorities Include Marcellus Shale Legislation

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) told a Pennsylvania Press Club audience Monday Senate Republican priorities for the fall legislative session include: reapportionment and redistricting, "rocks and roads"-- Marcellus Shale drilling fee and related environmental legislation and transportation infrastructure funding.
He noted the House and Gov. Corbett may have other priorities.
Sen. Scarnati said reapportionment was the only thing that absolutely had to get done this fall and thought they would meet the legal deadline. He said he supported Sen. Pileggi's (R-Delaware) electoral voting reform measure as a co-sponsor because it helped voters in "the T," Pennsylvania's Republican mid-section.
On the Marcellus Shale drilling fee, Sen. Scarnati said a proposal generating about $200 million a year was the "sweet spot" in the debate, noting some Democratic proposals would be equivalent to a moratorium on drilling.
But he added, "I am tired of being here, holding the bag, year after year, trying to get this done. October is the timeline I'd like to work in."
The Senator said he thought Gov. Corbett's recent comments accepting a drilling fee were a step in the right direction.
He said he felt the drilling fee and proposals to address safety and environmental concerns would move through the Senate as one package. He also opposed having off-setting reductions in other state taxes to compensate for a new drilling fee saying those tax revenues were needed to off-set impacts in other areas of the state.
Sen. Scarnati did say there was a need to address local zoning regulations on drilling operations and thought incentives for the conversion of school buses and other public transportation to natural gas made sense.
On transportation funding, Sen. Scarnati noted the Governor's Transportation Funding Commission made very specific recommendations on where to get more funding, which he said is particularly needed in rural parts of the state where a closed bridge could force a 30 minute detour. "We need real leaders to show Pennsylvanians Republicans can lead this state."
Sen. Scarnati said he was not opposed to leveraging liquor store privatization for a drilling fee or broadening Small Games of Chance to help fund transportation improvements, because that's the way businesses is done. He said he was not opposed to privatization, but said the public needs to understand what it really means.
On school vouchers, Sen. Scarnati said it would be a big lift to get a vouchers bill to the Governor's desk this fall, noting the Senate was due to pass some school reform legislation this week.

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