EDITORS NOTE: The following guest column was written by Craig Clayton in response to an editorial in the San Antonio Express-News that advocated repealing a tax exemption that serves as an incentive for natural gas drilling in Texas. The piece was published on Saturday, Feb. 25. Clayton submitted the piece for publication in Arkansas. Voters in Arkansas may be facing a vote to eliminate exemptions to the state tax on natural gas while increasing it from 5 percent to 7 percent. Backers of that potential initiated act are in the process of gathering petition signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.

EDITORS NOTE: The following guest column was written by Craig Clayton in response to an editorial in the San Antonio Express-News that advocated repealing a tax exemption that serves as an incentive for natural gas drilling in Texas. The piece was published on Saturday, Feb. 25. Clayton submitted the piece for publication in Arkansas. Voters in Arkansas may be facing a vote to eliminate exemptions to the state tax on natural gas while increasing it from 5 percent to 7 percent. Backers of that potential initiated act are in the process of gathering petition signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.

San Antonio For the first time in a long time, big employers are coming to San Antonio and elsewhere in South Texas. Unemployment is falling dramatically. Our schools are getting a big boost in property tax revenue. And our sales tax revenues are on the rise. All of this is happening because of expanded natural gas production in our region.

So I was discouraged to read a recent editorial in this newspaper advocating a repeal of the investment tax incentive for the development of high-cost natural gas. Raising taxes on natural gas an industry that supports 12 percent of Texas jobs and is fueling new economic growth in San Antonio and South Texas does not make sound fiscal sense. Discouraging natural gas production is the wrong move for our state and our city especially in these fragile economic times.

Since 1989, this partial tax reduction has encouraged natural gas exploration and production in areas that are more difficult and more expensive to develop than traditional gas fields. The incentive has helped drive the shale gas revolution in North Texas (Barnett Shale) and East Texas (Haynesville) creating jobs, driving economic growth, and increasing funding for schools, police, hospitals and other critical local services.

Recently, with the burgeoning development of the Eagle Ford Shale, the natural gas revolution has come to San Antonio and South Texas, and we are just beginning to see the results. Big employers are establishing their Eagle Ford base of operations in San Antonio and bringing hundreds of high-quality jobs to our local economy. For example, last year Halliburton announced a new facility that Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said is the biggest thing that’s happened in San Antonio since Toyota. San Antonio builders also are being buoyed by the development of the Eagle Ford.

As this newspaper recently reported, the housing crunch in producing areas is creating new projects for our city’s builders and providing countless new jobs in construction. I could go on and on about benefits for San Antonio. But what has struck me most is what the Eagle Ford means for the families and children of South Texas in terms of jobs and education.

Take Dimmitt County, where the New York Times reported the unemployment rate has fallen in half, and sales tax receipts are up 70 percent … allowing the county to hire more police officers and buy sanitation and road repair equipment. Or the many previously poor school districts throughout South Texas that have received a surge of property tax funding allowing them to provide educational opportunities for their students like never before. The high-cost gas tax incentive is especially important now that natural gas prices are at historic lows.

A repeal of the incentive would put Texas at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states like Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas, which have substantial high-cost programs to encourage producers. Why raise taxes on an industry that is the growing bright spot for our local and regional economy?

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Craig Clayton is a San Antonio CPA who does considerable work for the oil and gas industry in Texas. He also is a former school board member for the Alamo Independent School District.