Yaw addresses opioids, other issues
State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said he could support a severance tax but not if it meant doing away with an impact fee already imposed on drilling.
Yaw, speaking with the Sun-Gazette editorial board Thursday, also addressed the opioid epidemic, property tax reassessment, education and other issues.
The lawmaker, who represents the 23rd Senatorial District which includes Lycoming County, said he would vote for a “reasonable” severance tax.
The natural gas industry, he noted, is reaping revenues with improved drilling technology resulting in more productive wells.
“They are drilling longer laterals,” he said.
His senatorial district has seen revenues of $1.5 billion from impact fees.
“I would vote for a reasonable severance tax as long as we can preserve the impact fee,” he said.
His comments came on the day that Gov. Wolf called once again for a severance tax on drilling.
On a related issue, Yaw said he’d like to see the permit process for drilling streamlined.
He said it takes the agency too long to consider permits for natural gas and other industries.
Yaw said while there has been some progress in the fight against the opioid epidemic, the battle is far from over.
Among legislation he is pushing is a bill limiting the number of days for opioid prescriptions.
Research has revealed that many people become addicted to opioids from over-use of the medications.
He is calling for standardized reporting from coroners in deaths resulting from overdoses.
According to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health study, thousands of fatal overdoses caused by heroin or synthetic opioids have gone unreported nationwide during the past 17 years due to incomplete death certificates.
The state’s 67 coroners all need to be on the same page, he said.
Yaw also called for medication assisted treatment.
Many treatment programs, he said, require those with addiction problems to abstain from drugs, which isn’t the correct approach for everyone.
Yaw said he supports mandatory property tax reassessment every four years in counties.
He noted that in some of the state’s counties, reassessments have not been done for as long as 40 years.
Reassessments normally result in tax increases for less than half of a county’s property owners, while others see no tax hike or even a reduction.
“If you do it (reassessment) regularly, you won’t have tax problems,” he said.
Yaw said there is no simple answers for making all school districts equal.
More affluent districts will ultimately have the more expensive facilities thanks to higher tax revenues.
Right now, the state spends about 33 percent more than the national average per student.
Yaw said technical education should be funded more adequately.
“One of the things I hear is we don’t have a trained workforce,” he said.
Officials of industries, he said, claim that they simply don’t have the personnel to fill available jobs.
Yaw said technical education continues to be stigmatized by people who see a college degree as the key to finding a good job.
“We really need to train our workforce,” he said.
Commenting on the recent resignation of Republican Tom Marino from the 12th House seat, Yaw said, “It came as a surprise.”
He noted the congressional district has lost a senior lawmaker.
“I’m not glad to see him out,” he said. “Everything in Washington is based on seniority. He was in for a while. Someone will step up to the position.”