HARRISBURG – A three-story brownstone where former Gov. Tom Ridge has offices for his lobbying firm became ground zero Wednesday in the fight over Pennsylvania’s proposed new budget.
About 250 advocates from organized labor, environmental groups, and social services carried out a surprise ambush on Ridge’s firm, which represents companies drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale. They delivered this message: If the proposed budget will slice education funding, then it should also make big drilling companies pay taxes on the natural gas they extract.
Clutching signs and chanting slogans, most of the activists swarmed into the Ridge Policy Group, just a block from the Capitol, shortly after 2 p.m. They poured through the unlocked doors and began packing rooms on the first and second floors, demanding that someone from the lobbying firm come speak to them.
With their stomping feet causing the floorboards to creak and groan – and likely breaking fire codes – they finally got the attention of Mark Campbell, a partner in the firm and Ridge’s onetime chief of staff. He talked briefly to organizers and promised to tell his clients that activists wanted to speak with them.
“We’ll be back,” the activists warned as the group finally left about 15 minutes later with chants of “No Free Pass for Oil and Gas.” They left a mock invoice for the millions in taxes they say could have been collected from an extraction tax.