Grassroots Support Key in Beating Back New Taxes on Natural Gas

Members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition march onto the steps of the Pennsylvania state Capitol  Tuesday, May 6, 2014 in Harrisburg, Pa.  The event is intended to let legislators and the public know that a diverse group of people support the natural gas boom that began about six years ago. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)

Members of the Marcellus Shale Coalition march onto the steps of the Pennsylvania state Capitol Tuesday, May 6, 2014 in Harrisburg, Pa. The event is intended to let legislators and the public know that a diverse group of people support the natural gas boom that began about six years ago. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)

When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf put forth his tax increase agenda with his spending plan for fiscal year 2015/2016, part of the plan was to impose a new severance tax on Pennsylvania-produced natural gas. He also proposed an increase in personal income tax and sales tax increases. As can be imagined, taxpayers, local businesses, and energy companies and their local suppliers were opposed to the Governor’s proposed 20150623_TellGovWolfNoNewTaxesHomepageGraphic62315legislation.

Five Corners Strategies has long been a partner and member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and has worked with the Coalition and our fellow members to identify and mobilize grassroots support.

The campaign to organize citizens opposed to Governor Wolf’s tax increases started in the spring with a broad identification and outreach effort to citizens around the Commonwealth, and included:

  1. Local businesses which flourished because of a strong natural gas economy
  2. Citizens concerned about tax increases during a time of tepid wage growth
  3. Voters who wanted to see budget discipline first, not taxes
  4. Community organizations that were thriving because of existing taxes and contributions from natural gas production

Our message was clear: create new budget revenues by encouraging new growth in the natural gas business, rather than through new taxes.  Or more simply – choose jobs, not taxes.

That may seem like an over-simplification of a complex issue, but when it comes to driving strong grassroots support in a short amount of time, simple messaging often wins out. And we were very successful in deploying this strategy.

Through phone calls, knocking on doors, social media and online ads, we drove people to sign up through the grassroots United Shale Advocates website – adding more than 2,000 new Shale Advocates. Supporters of natural gas were asked to call, write or email the legislators we had identified as sitting on the fence on the issue.

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In the final few days before the vote more than 2,100 communications were received by those identified legislators from our Shale Advocates, and we were able to turn the votes in our favor on the floor of the House. That included both Republicans and Democrats, making it a note-worthy bi-partisan opposition.

On October 7th, 2015, just one week after we initiated our final push, Governor Wolf’s proposed bill was defeated 127-73 with nine of his fellow Democrats joining all the House Republicans in voting against raising personal income tax and enacting a new severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production.

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