Elected officials rally in favor of Impact Fee

From Left: Susq. Co. Commissioner Alan Hall, Wayne Co. Commissioner Brian Smith, Rep. Jonathan Fritz, Exec. Director Wyoming Co. Chamber of Commerce Gina Suydam, Wyoming Co. Commissioner Tom Henry, Sen. Gene Yaw, Marcellus Shale Coalition President Dave Spigelmyer

Wayne County Commissioner Brian Smith says his county has been able to do important projects because of the state’s Impact Fee despite a moratorium on drilling there.

His remarks came Friday at a gathering held at the Wyoming County EMA building in Tunkhannock, where a group of state legislators, county commissioners from three counties, and representatives from natural gas companies and the Marcellus Shale Coalition gathered in support of the maintaining Pennsylvania’s Impact Fee.

Susquehanna County Commissioner Alan Hall and Wyoming Co. 911 Director Gene Dziak look over drawings of the proposed Susquehanna County Public Safety Building

Susquehanna County Commissioner Alan Hall said that since 2012, the municipalities in the county have received $69 million and the county has received $42 million in Act 13 revenue.

He noted the influx of revenue has allowed to county to complete about $15 million of renovation work to the county courthouse and reduce taxes by $5 million over the past five years. Impact fee monies have also utilized for allowable expenditures, freeing up enough budget revenue to shore up the county’s pension fund, according to Hall.

“There is one more big project to do – the Public Safety Building,” Hall said. He told the crowd that current equipment being utilized is “so far outdated” that employees have to search the internet to find parts to fix it.

Hall unveiled drawings of the proposed public safety building, and said the estimated cost of it is about $15 million, which would be paid using Act 13 monies received by the county and not taxpayer dollars.

“The impact fee has allowed (Susquehanna County) to do things that improve the lives of every single person in the county,” Hall said.

Smith said there is a “wisdom in the Impact fee.” He noted that Wayne County has been able to capitalize on the funding pools established with the legislation, including using $55,000 from the Legacy fund as seed money for important projects. “There are a lot of counties with no production that still need to do important things,” he said.

Wyoming County Commissioner Tom Henry said the Impact Fee revenue received has helped to widen the 911-EMA Center. He also said the natural gas development has helped to grow the economy with many new businesses and shops in the area.

Rep. Jonathan Fritz (R-111th) said he believed the state should “roll out the red carpet instead of the red tape” for business and industry looking to come to Pennsylvania, including the gas industry.

He noted the proximity to market puts the Commonwealth at an advantage but said the high corporate tax rate hampers business development.

Fritz said that since 2005, Pennsylvania has seen a 29 percent reduction in CO2 and exceeded the clean air goal. “Pennsylvania, quite frankly, is getting the job done,” he said.

Sen. Gene Yaw spoke about state initiatives, such as the PIPE program which is allowing Tunkhannock to expand local natural gas distribution service. “It is really gratifying to hear it is working as intended,” he said. But, he noted, 50 percent of households in the state do not have access to natural gas service.

“The gas industry came to Pennsylvania and didn’t ask for anything,” Yaw said. “Since 2012, Act 13 has distributed $1.5 billion.”

He said the Impact Fee has generated more revenue than severance taxes in several states combined.

Yaw called Act 13 one of the “greatest pieces of legislation for rural Pennsylvania in the past 100 years.”

Dave Spidelmeyer, President of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said the state is not providing 20 percent of the nation’s natural gas supply. “It is a world class dry gas play,” he said.

Southwestern Energy’s Michael Narcavage said the company has paid over $90 million in Impact tax. “I’m glad it comes back to counties, like Susquehanna, to benefit the residents,” he said.

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