Democrats and Trades Not Happy with Tom Wolf; No, Not Happy at All

Jim Willis
Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)

 

Democrats and trades have been supporters of HB 1100 and the Energize PA initiative to build on Pennsylvania’s shale and they’re not happy with Tom Wolf.

Pennsylvania House Bill (HB) 1100, aimed at attracting new petrochemical investment to the state, was previously passed by the PA House, and last week, by the Senate. Gov. Tom Wolf (liberal Democrat) says he will veto the bill anyway–denying the state billions of private economic stimulus it could receive. The bill was passed by a large bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate. There’s a good chance Democrats will join Republicans to override Wolf’s veto.

Democrats

HB 1100 requires a company to build a brand new petrochemical manufacturing facility in the state by investing at least $450 million and creating at least 800 new construction/permanent jobs. In return, the new facility would get a tax break for a number of years.

The vision here is to attract investment and jobs from big petchem plants–think plants like the Shell ethane cracker being built in Monaca, PA. Except these plants don’t use ethane, but instead natural gas (methane). Many different kinds of petrochemical plants use methane.

The northeastern part of the state is specifically in view with these investments, which is where most of the dry gas is extracted in the state. At least one company says they will build a methanol plant in NEPA if this bill becomes law.

Typically, members of the governor’s party (Democrats, in this case) would not vote to override their own governor. The difference this time, according to this WITF story, is trade unions which are pushing HB 1100 hard:

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he’ll veto a bill that would give tax breaks to manufacturers that use Pennsylvania natural gas. But Republicans—and a few others—are trying to see if they can override him.

The bill passed with support from more than two-thirds of lawmakers in each chamber. That means if nobody changes their position, members can ensure the bill becomes law.

It’s rare for lawmakers to override a governor’s veto — in part, because members of the governor’s party are often reluctant to vote against him. ?So, even if they voted for a bill, many tend to switch their vote to back their party leader.

Luzerne County Senator John Yudichak is a staunch supporter of the bill who recently left the Democratic Party to become an Independent.

He said he hopes Wolf reconsiders vetoing the bill.

If Wolf does veto it, he said, he thinks trade unions — which support the measure — may be able to rally enough legislative support for an override.

“The communication to me from my friends in the building trades—they are going to fight this and get this to the goal line,” he said. “They’re going to call on Democrats and Republicans to stand with the Pennsylvania building trades, stand with growing the economy in Pennsylvania, specifically in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Yudichak and other lawmakers from the northeast are specifically expecting the tax breaks will help a methanol manufacturer in their region.

Wolf has said he opposes the bill because he thinks these tax breaks should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Asked Friday if his mind had been changed by the House and Senate’s overwhelming support for the bill, he said he still plans to veto it.

At least one company has said it would likely use the tax break to build a methanol plant in northeastern Pa. — Elis Energy, which is based in Connecticut.

The commonwealth’s Department of Revenue has said the proposed program would probably cost about $22 million annually per plant. The initiative would last until 2050, unless lawmakers renew it.

A spokesman for House Democrats said the caucus is still mulling the situation, and will discuss the bill further when they reconvene in March.

A spokeswoman for Senate Democrats declined to comment.

The last time lawmakers overrode a veto was in 2010, under Democratic Governor Ed Rendell.

Editor’s Note; Pennsylvania Democrats are, undoubtedly, thinking about Senator John Yudichak, who just left their party over issues such as this. He could not abide Tom Wolf’s increasingly treacherous behavior toward labor, his sellout out of the trades to the special interests of Heinz Endowments and William Penn Foundation shills such as the Delaware PovertyKeeper. This tweet by him says it all, in fact:

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