As the clock winds down on passing a gas severance tax, area lawmakers are showing no signs that they are switching sides in the debate.
State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, said everyone would like to see 100 percent of a tax come back to local municipalities, rather than having a big chunk of revenues go to the state.
But it has to be kept in mind that many of the lawmakers live in districts outside the Marcellus Shale where drilling occurs.
"That is the reality of a situation when we don't have majority of the votes," he said.
Mirabito said if House Republicans are fearful of losing revenues to the general fund, they should send a bill back to the Senate that increases the amount for municipalities.
"I'm fighting to get as much as I can for the local municipalities, but if no bill is sent over I can guarantee you nothing will get sent back," he said.
Lawmakers spent much of Tuesday considering Democratic-sponsored legislation that would bring about what some call the highest severance tax in the nation.
Late Tuesday evening, the state House amended the gas tax bill by a 154-to-45 vote to add more money for environmental needs.
The change delayed a final House vote until today.
The proposal would tax the gas at the rate of 39 cents per 1,000 cubic feet.
The late amendment by Montgomery County Rep. Kate Harper dedicates 60 percent of the revenue for local and environmental needs. The other 40 percent goes into the state's general fund.
A previous version of the bill had earmarked 60 percent for the general fund.
The tax is expected to raise $300 million in a full year.
"It would put 81 percent of revenues in the (state's) General Fund and do little or nothing for local impacts or environmental concerns," state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy, said prior to a vote on the amendment.
More revenues should go to local communities to help address problems caused by drilling, he said just before excusing himself to return to the House floor for a vote.
Mirabito said both sides were in the process of staking out their positions on the issue and it would be difficult to know what legislation results.
He disagreed with many Republicans that the severance tax being considered by Democrats would represent the nation's highest.
"Other states assess property taxes on the gas reserves and the equipment. And Pennsylvania does not have any taxes on oil and gas reserves because they are prohibited by a 2002 court ruling," he said. "When you take that into the account, Pennsylvania actually becomes one of the lower states in terms of the tax."
State Rep. Matthew E. Baker, R-Wellsboro, agreed the severance tax as proposed by Democrats would be the nation's highest.
He said many groups oppose it, including the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations, as well as farmers and landowners.
It's the sort of legislation that would be counterproductive for drilling, including in Tioga County which has begun reaping the benefits of the industry.
"There's just so many reasons to oppose this legislation," he said.
Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, said failing to act now would delay passage of a natural-gas drilling tax for at least five years.
"That's the reality you're going to have to face with your constituents," Hanna said.
The AP contributed to this story.