As Ohio Gov. John Kasich continues to push for a severance tax on gas and oil drilling, his Democratic challenger has been asked where he stands on that issue. And as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, Ed FitzGerald’s answer hasn’t been so clear to reporters.
If you read some major Ohio newspapers last week, you probably came away with the idea that Democratic nominee for governor Ed FitzGerald doesn’t want to see a hike in the severance tax on gas and oil drilling.
One story said, “FitzGerald took a stance matching that of many of the General Assembly’s most conservative Republicans: Ohio’s severance tax on oil and gas -- one of the lowest in the country -- should not be increased.”
Another said FitzGerald was not proposing a severance tax increase as part of his energy plan. And some reporters understood FitzGerald to say he disagreed with Kasich’s proposed severance tax but didn’t rule out support a severance tax in principle. FitzGerald’s three-minute answer to the question of whether he’d support a severance tax on gas and oil was unclear, leaving reporters to come to different conclusions about his stance on the subject.
But FitzGerald was more direct on WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher last week.
"I am for a severance tax, but I disagreed with the governor’s tax increase," he said.
FitzGerald went on to say he was opposed to Kasich’s proposal because it shifted the tax burden more toward working people in those communities that are rich in oil and gas potential. And he said Kasich’s plan should have addressed a way to help those communities in Appalachia where gas exploration is a major part of a struggling local economy.
"There are counties in some parts of the state that still have double-digit unemployment," FitzGerald said. "And for the state to come along and say, 'Well, we're going to tax this local natural resource and we are going to keep almost all of the money for the state budget, which by the way is dramatically bigger than it was under governor Kasich’s predecessor" -- democratic Gov. Ted Strickland -- "and we are going to keep it for ourselves, for our own budgetary priorities, without sitting down with local folks out there and saying 'here’s how we can invest in the local community', I think is wrong."
FitzGerald would not do an interview with Ohio Public Radio on this subject, but his communications director referred us to this statement on the call-in show.
For his part, Kasich’s proposed severance tax plan is pretty well known. He has been pushing for a severance tax of 2.75 percent, and 20 percent of that amount would go to impacted communities. The rest would go back to the state for a variety of uses, including another income tax cut.
Majority Republicans in the Ohio legislature have been reluctant to embrace Kasich’s plan. And even a smaller 2.5 percent proposed severance tax plan that has more support among some lawmakers is stalled in the legislative process for now.