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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Causer Meets with Governor Wolf, Outlines Priorities for Rural PA

Rep. Martin Causer
HARRISBURG – Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) met with Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday morning to talk about several key issues for rural Pennsylvania, including overregulation of the conventional oil and gas industries, development of a rural community college, and fair funding for rural school districts and communities with high amounts of state-owned lands.

“It is important for the governor to understand the unique challenges facing people in rural Pennsylvania and even more important for him to recognize how some of his proposed policies may impact our region,” Causer said. “I appreciated the opportunity to bring these issues to his attention.”

Causer explained the region’s reliance on conventional oil and gas drilling, which has been going on for 150 years but is now at risk because the industry is being lumped into the same regulatory requirements as the large-scale unconventional drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Governor Tom Wolf
“I stressed to the governor that there are vast differences in these drilling operations and a failure to implement separate regulations will drive our conventional operators out of business, taking thousands of good-paying jobs with them,” Causer said.

Last year, Causer led the effort to pass a law requiring the state’s Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to enact separate regulations that are reasonable and relevant to each type of activity. Additionally, Causer is supportive of legislation to establish a Penn Grade Crude Development Advisory Council which would be charged with studying existing regulations and assisting the Department of Environmental Protection in making changes that better address the differences between conventional and unconventional oil and gas production.

He also briefed the governor on efforts to establish a rural community college to better serve the needs of students of all ages and employers in the area. Although development of the college was authorized in legislation last year, and $1.2 million was dedicated to help with start-up costs, the Department of Education has refused to release the funding.

“The governor seemed perplexed about why the money hadn’t been released and indicated he would look into it,” Causer said. “With his background in business and manufacturing, he should understand why making community college services available here is so important.”

Finally, he talked about the fiscal challenges facing rural communities and, in particular, school districts.

“The state’s Basic Education Funding Commission is planning to make recommendations later this year about how to revise the state’s funding formula to make it more ‘fair,’ but I am deeply concerned that could mean a loss in state funds for all of our rural schools that are already struggling,” Causer said. “I specifically talked to the governor about the plight of the Austin Area School District, which is the largest district geographically but the smallest in student population, and has a very limited tax base since 90 percent of the land in the district is owned by the state.”

Causer then outlined for the governor his land tax fairness proposals that would go a long way toward helping the Austin Area School District and communities across the Northern Tier.

House Bill 344 would increase the state’s payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) on state-owned forest and game lands from $3.60 per acre to $6 per acre. The PILT is divided equally among the municipalities, school districts and counties in which the land is located and applies to lands under the control of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC).

House Bill 343 would call for 20 percent of total revenue collected from the sale of timber, oil and natural gas on most state-owned lands to be deposited into a restricted fund for disbursement to local governments across the Commonwealth, proportionally based on the number of acres of state land in each municipality, school district and county.

Causer also extended the governor an invitation to visit the region. “The more our state’s leaders understand rural Pennsylvania, the better off we will be. I hope he takes me up on the offer.”


Anonymous said...

Interesting. The last three paragraphs are awesome. If the state will stop putting the screws to local taxpayers by nickel and diming us on all this state land that would really help our economy. I hunt, fish, hike and spend a lot of time on the state forest and game lands but it's not right that the state doesn't pay any taxes on them and the rest of us have to pay for school taxes and township. This is important so thanks to Marty and maybe we can open this Governor's eyes if he actually does come up here.

Anonymous said...

Thank You for trying BUT wolfy already KNOWS what he is going to do to our State...He will drive the Gas/Oil Business out with the TAX farce for Educating the city kids that DO NOT want educated...Raise the income tax ect...So far everything he is planning WILL NOT be the best for our State or its people...

Anonymous said...

Good for you Marty! Keep up the great work in Harrisburg! Unless it's an election year, I don't think the governor (regardless of party) is aware that Pennsylvania extends north of I-80. I would hope that Gov. Wolf comes and visits Potter-McKean-Cameron Counties and really gets a sense of what goes on and how we live up here.

Anonymous said...

I think the residents of Austin need to face the reality of losing their school. The DCNR and Game Commission will never give up land, nor accept tax breaks. They are too greedy.

Anonymous said...

I have said this for years 12:29 the Austin school has been mismanaged for years ! The waste alone is more than most incomes in the area . And they just keep right on doing it! Not to mention the (fixing) of the books to make it like we are graduating kids way above the national standards ! If you say anything you and your children are attacked and ridiculed openly ! It's way past time to get with the rest of the world !

Anonymous said...

12:29, possibly the most assinine statement I've seen on here. Greedy. Good one. Give up land? To who? Does each taxpayer get an acre? Or do they sell it to investment comapanies in who will lease it to hunting clubs further restricting its use. Seems like those would be the greedy ones.

A school that graduates 12 kids should be closed, or rather should have been closed 30 years ago. If the folks in Austin want a school for 12 students then let them pay for it. Austin pride...