The Associated Press's Viewing Harrisburg column on April 25 ("Marcellus Shale tax debate heats back up") did not adequately cover the difference between a severance tax and real estate taxation.
Oil and gas where they are being extracted and severed from the surface of land, were taxed as real estate in the Commonwealth since the late 1800s. Court cases have consistently opined that oil and gas are minerals and where title to them is severed from the surface owner, an estate of land is created, which, if it is of any value, can and should be taxed.
Our legislators, at that time, realized that if you funded schools and municipalities primarily on real estate taxation those rural counties would not have the commercial and industrial development of more populated areas and would need to tax the minerals.
However, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in 2002, in a decision which defied logic, stated that the general assembly had not explicity recognized gas and oil as a taxable interest.
Even the gas companies expected the General Assembly to revise this wording of the legislation immediately. They never did.
A simple amendment to the legislation, passed in 1933, stating "including gas and oil" would solve the problem.
This would not be a new tax, it would simply continue taxation as it had been done for 100 years.
Who would benefit? All of us. As the taxation of gas comes in the counties affected would eventually lower the millage for all of us. Schools, especially now, need this source of revenue which was taken from them in 2002.
School districts outside the gas activity would also benefit as the state money not going to the school districts receiving this local tax would be available to others.
In addition, all of the state land on which the state did not own the minerals, the real estate taxation of gas would be paid by the gas companies.
It is a no-brainer and it is a one-page bill similar to the old House Bill 10 of 2008.
Please call your legislators and tell them you want natural gas taxed as real estate as is done with coal and limestone.