Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe has called a special session starting Monday to consider a higher severance tax on natural gas. The Governor says that the tax hike will eventually raise as much as $100 million to help pay for state highways. The current level of tax was established in 1957 and is based on the volume of gas extracted. Beebe's proposal would change the tax base to market value, bringing Arkansas in line with what most states have been doing since the 1970s. Basing the tax on market value would ensure that inflation will no longer erode the value of revenues generated by the tax, which is currently providing natural gas companies with an effective tax cut each year. A 2003 ITEP study of the Arkansas natural gas tax found that if the state had imposed a 5 percent tax on the market value of natural gas in 1975 (rather than basing the tax on volume) the state would have raised $610 million between 1975 and 2001, instead of the $13 million it actually collected. For more on the state's severance tax and potential reforms read this report from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
Higher severance taxes may soon be on the agenda as well in Colorado, where environmental groups and higher education advocates have banded together in support of a ballot initiative to generate $200 million in additional revenue from the oil and gas industries. The proposal would eliminate several severance tax deductions and exemptions, the most notable of which allows companies to write off 87.5 percent of their property tax bills. The revenue generated would go to fund college scholarships and renewable-energy programs, among other things.