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Protesters favoring shale tax interrupt pro-industry rally in Capitol

HARRISBURG – Businesses benefiting from Marcellus shale development on Tuesday rallied to oppose Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed natural gas extraction tax but encountered opposition of their own.

Protesters backing the tax intended to fund education shouted down some of the speakers.

“Tax the shale!” and “Fund our schools!” were refrains from Philadelphia parents and advocates for Wolf’s proposed severance tax during the rally at the state Capitol.

“Are you afraid of my message, that you can’t listen to me?” said Tony Calderelli of Vets for Energy.

Wolf, a Democrat, and Republican legislative leaders appear to be far apart on a state budget due June 30, largely because of the issues of a natural gas tax, proposed reforms to public pensions and whether to sell the state liquor stores.

The rally drew about 40 participants and about a dozen protestors.

Dawn Hawkins, a Philadelphia parent, said she believes lawmakers ultimately will approve a tax.

“Oh yeah,” she said later. It will happen because of “power of the people.”

Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, chided the protesters for “shouting down an Iraqi war veteran.”

Barr said higher energy taxes “will stunt our economic growth and jeopardize the success of our state’s fastest-growing industry.” The chamber organized the rally.

Melissa Hodge, of Allegheny Medical Integrated Health Services in Coraopolis, said the organization of physicians and health care professionals has grown by 44 percent over the past two years because of the gas and oil industry. The industry and its suppliers brought new jobs, Hodge said.

In related news, State budget: Severance tax is up in the air.

This article was written by Brad Bumsted from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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