Oil and gas tax dollars should stay in our area

Since taking office, Gov. John Kasich has promised to raise Ohio’s severance tax on oil and gas producers to provide income tax relief to all Ohioans. Throughout this debate I have always insisted that our part of Ohio receive its fair share of any new tax revenue on oil and gas production. Unfortunately, pending legislation in the Ohio House, House Bill 375, that proposes a new severance tax on oil and natural gas production through the use of horizontal drilling doesn’t do that. Horizontal wells are being drilled throughout eastern and southeastern Ohio, mostly in what is known as the Point Pleasant, Utica, or Marcellus shale formations.

The bill would impose a tax rate of 1% for the first five years and then a rate of 2% thereafter. Proceeds from the tax would be used to fund necessary regulatory activities, such as plugging orphaned and idled oil and gas wells, and to provide income tax cuts to all Ohioans, many of whom do not live in oil and gas producing counties. In its current form the legislation does not invest back into the communities that are developing oil and gas. This is of great concern, and it is critical that the final bill contain a mechanism that will reinvest those tax dollars into our region.

It is no secret that the economy in eastern Ohio has struggled for many years. We now have a unique opportunity to capitalize on an abundant natural resource that sits right below our feet. We cannot miss this chance to rebuild our economy and leave behind a legacy for future generations. Industry representatives have testified that the new tax they are proposing could generate nearly $2 billion over 10 years. There is so much we can do with the financial resources this tax would generate. A portion of those funds could be used to improve our infrastructure, train our workforce, provide public and safety services, and invest in new technologies that will create local jobs and protect our environment.

As the legislation moves through the Ohio House I will be following it very closely and talking with my colleagues in the legislature on both sides of the aisle about how we can work together to ensure that our part of Ohio gets its fair share. When the bill reaches the Senate I intend to take a leadership role on behalf of all the counties in eastern and southeastern Ohio.

This is a monumental issue for our area and our citizens. In my opinion, this legislation will have a lasting impact on our economy for years to come. It is imperative that we, as a region engage in this discussion and make our voices heard. As this debate continues I remain committed to doing everything I can to advocate for our communities to ensure that we are not left behind.

Sen. Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville), represents Ohio’s 30th District.