PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — House Speaker Mike Turzai, a Marshall Republican, convened an energy forum with some of his House colleagues at the Pittsburgh Technical Institute in Oakdale on Friday morning.

The goal?

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“Broadening the Pennsylvania natural gas energy industry,” said Turzai.

The Speaker said expanding natural gas drilling would yield great benefits for this region.

“We can grow this economy. We can continue to put family sustaining jobs on the ground. We can continue to develop our energy independence with the development of natural gas,” he said.

Turzai, the top Republican in the state House, opposes Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed five percent tax on shale drilling to increase funding for public schools.

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“The governor’s approach is penal in nature. It’s punitive,” says Turzai. “I think it’s designed ultimately to shut down the industry particularly as it is already facing downward pressures.”

Wolf has been visiting schools across the state to boost increased school funding, but Turzai defended current levels of funding for public schools.

“Pennsylvanians pay $27 billion today in K through 12, and we are 13th in the nation, 13 out of 50 states, in per-pupil spending, and we’re sixth in the nation on total dollars spend on public education.”

The Speaker acknowledged that a severance tax on drilling is popular but insists it will hurt the industry.

“That story hasn’t been told,” he said. “I think we have been too apologetic as elected officials in selling the story.”

And Turzai predicts the votes aren’t there for Wolf’s approach.

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