(Editor’s note: The Era sat down with Sen. Cris Dush last week and spoke about issues impacting the 25th District. The second of two, this story focuses on Gov. Wolf’s proposed budget and energy policies.)
Sen. Cris Dush has some strong opinions on how things should be done in Pennsylvania.
And what Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed in his budget address doesn’t align with Dush’s opinions.
The Republican senator from Brookville spoke to The Era last week about Wolf’s state budget (he’s not a fan), Wolf’s energy policies (he’s REALLY not a fan) and more.
Referring to the governor’s proposed budget, in which Wolf proposed an increase in personal income taxes for higher income residents, Dush said, “He hasn’t seen a tax increase that he didn’t like. Thus far he’s been falling short on justification for those tax increases.”
The increased tax would impact businesses, Dush said, most of which are still reeling from the pandemic shutdown. Businesses had ongoing expenses even if they weren’t open, the senator said. And when the Christmastime shutdown happened, many restaurants lost huge inventories of food at a tremendous cost.
“There is no consideration of second or third impacts by this administration,” he said.
Dush also shared his thoughts on the state’s support of the energy production industry in Pennsylvania.
“He’s absolutely against it,” Dush said. “They tout ‘the science’ all the time while they are ignoring the science.”
He shared a story about a lake in China called Baotou, a “huge toxic lake that these electronics we’re buying in America are creating” there. Rare earth elements used in the manufacturing process of electric cars, wind turbines, smartphones and flatscreen televisions, to name a few.
“There is so much environmental damage going on from these,” Dush said. He used an example of solar panels, saying there’s no place in Pennsylvania to recycle them. “We don’t need that kind of biohazard coming here.”
Pennsylvania has energy already, in the fossil fuels of natural gas, oil and coal. The governor’s budget proposal includes another try at imposing a severance tax on the natural gas industry, a move which Dush said is being done for one purpose: “He’s doing it basically to finish off the gas industry and oil and coal industry here in Pennsylvania.”
The state has an impact fee, which is basically a tax that goes to the communities impacted by drilling. There’s never been a severance tax, and Dush said he has serious concerns about imposing one.
“We do have a constitutional requirement under the uniformity clause in the Constitution that all taxes have to be done equally,” he said. “A severance tax by definition, basically, is anything that is severed from the ground.
“A constitutional argument could be made that one would have to start taxing the crops off of the field, the water that is drawn from wells, any number of things _ even the gravel that we use for our roads and that sort of thing. There’s long term prospects that concern me greatly.”
The impact fee is working, he said, but added, “What I’m in favor of is that a significant portion of that stays local. Every time the money goes down to Harrisburg, it comes back at pennies on the dollar.”
He addressed, too, President Joe Biden’s executive orders which, among other things, ended the Keystone Pipeline.
“The president is overstepping,” Dush said. “There are mechanisms in Article 5 where we can push back.”
He’s working with a group of legislators from across the country to call for a convention to propose a constitutional amendment called the “countermand amendment.”
“That amendment to the Constitution would provide that whenever two-thirds of the various states deem that a federal law, a federal executive order, a departmental directive or even a Supreme Court ruling were counter to what the states perceive to be part of the intent of the constitution or overstep their authority, that they could nullify that law, that court ruling, that departmental directive, whatever, Dush explained. “That way we could put a stop to all of this.”
Is the support there for such an action?
“I think if there was a time that this was going to pass, this would probably be it.”
Dush said there is one other issue that he wanted to address, as he’s still approached by constituents asking questions.
“The issue that absolutely will not go away is elections,” he said. It’s not about the outcome in 2020, although Dush supported Trump. It’s about the electoral process itself, about the Pennsylvania Secretary of State and Supreme Court writing election law.
“It’s the process that was lost,” Dush said. “When people aren’t confident that their vote matters and is actually counted, and not discounted by 2 or 3 people who are voting illegally or by some electronic system that is not counting it accurately, there’s legitimate reason for concern.
“I am working diligently with others to try to identify the problems and try to get things fixed,” he added.