I sometimes think only about six people -- outside of those directly affected -- care about the gas severance tax. But that's what blogs are about, in part -- personal obsessions. To me, the removal of a non-renewable natural resource without a payment to the state commensurate with that in other states has always been not only a shame but an enduring emblem of the sway that special interests have held over the legislature.
So I'm deeply interested in the developments since former gas executive Sheffield Nelson forced this back onto the public stage, after Gov. Mike Beebe gave it a good leaving-alone in the 2007 legislature. Yesterday, Beebe said he still thought a legislative solution possible. Legislative leaders were more skeptical. Beebe is probably the better judge. But it boils down to a deal the gas producers will accept. The special interests are still running the show. The question appears to be what type of deduction for drilling activities will be extended to producers. There's been talk that drilling the Fayetteville Shale is more expensive. Nelson has raised questions about that. The shale wells tend to be shallower and lower risk, he says. He doubts the argument about expense. Let's hope we have some believable exposition on this before Beebe gives away the ranch -- again -- to gas producers.
John Brummett is writing about money and political dimensions of the issue today, including a mention of a Conway man who's studied the tax issue and suggests the gas industry's statements about how overall tax burden after a big severance tax increase has been, surprise, exaggerated. Gas lobbyists try to emphasize selective facts to gain advantage? You might as well tell me a newspaper columnist would do that.
Roby Brock at Talk Business takes exception to the notion that a special session must be in March or never. It could follow the May primary, he notes. And he links to a previous article on what other states have done on exemptions, etc.