Obama Releases Birth Certificate, Now Gas Drillers Should Disclose Taxes

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President Obama today released his full birth certificate from the state of Hawaii in an effort to put to rest unending speculation about his American citizenship.

In that spirit, we’d like to invite each natural gas drilling company in Pennsylvania to release details on the state and local business taxes it pays in Pennsylvania.

This request comes on the heels of a new report we put out this week, which found natural gas drillers are paying very little state and local taxes in Pennsylvania. The report examined state Department of Revenue data from 2008 and found that gas drillers paid only $38.8 million in business taxes that year, despite industry claims that drillers are paying hundreds of millions of dollars in Pennsylvania taxes.

Needless to say, the gas industry was unhappy with our report. In media reports, they criticized our work and repeatedly cited an industry-funded study by two former professors in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences that painted a much more favorable picture of the industry’s tax contributions.

Of course, industry officials forgot to mention that college Dean William Easterling later distanced the university from the 2009 report, writing that there were “flaws in the way the report was written and presented to the public” and that “the authors may well have crossed the line between policy analysis and policy advocacy.”

Our report used verifiable data from the Department of Revenue that tracked just how much the gas drilling industry paid in business taxes. The industry-funded report presented conjecture based on economic models that cast the widest of all nets in calculating the state and local taxes generated by industry activity — going so far as to include fishing licenses purchased by drilling community residents.

There is one way for gas drillers to put this to rest once and for all. Each company could release verifiable details on the state and local business taxes it pays in Pennsylvania.

Maybe Donald Trump could make that his next crusade.

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