One vote closer to passage at the Pennsylvania statehouse is a bill that could take quite a toll on truckers and others who must travel in the state. Specifically, the state would be allowed to partner with private groups from around the world to do road work in exchange for charging toll taxes.
OOIDA officials say truckers already pay taxes and other user fees to access freeways. As a result, charging tolls on existing roads would amount to an additional tax.
The Association’s list of highway funding principles notes that “tolls are taxes, and paying both tolls and fuel taxes amounts to double taxation. OOIDA adamantly opposes the sale or lease of existing roads and efforts to convert non-tolled roads into toll facilities.”
The Senate Transportation Committee voted unanimously Wednesday, May 23, to advance a bill to the Senate floor that would set up a framework for deals with private groups from around the world to fund work on roads and bridges. If approved there, the bill – HB3 – would move to Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk. House lawmakers already approved it on a 128-66 vote.
One road system that would be off limits to private business is the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Instead, lawmakers would need to approve any effort to hand over the turnpike.
Senate Transportation Chairman John Rafferty, R-Montgomery, said that passage of the bill to authorize lease deals for as long as 99 years is critical, given the transportation funding crisis in Pennsylvania.
He cited the governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission’s recommendation that authorization be given for public-private partnerships to get transportation projects complete, as well as tolling authority on existing interstates.
The commission’s report from August 2011 encouraged action due to anticipation that the funding need for transportation in the state is expected to triple from $3.5 billion now to $10.7 billion by 2030.
“This bill isn’t the answer to all of our state’s transportation problems, but it is an important step we can take to start addressing those concerns,” Rafferty said in a statement.
One group identified by supporters that is ready to do business in the state is Goldman Sachs. The company has met with lawmakers around the country for years touting the benefits of signing over state assets to private developers.
If approved, a seven-member board would be created in Pennsylvania to review toll proposals. Four state lawmakers would sit on the board.
Ryan Bowley, OOIDA’s director of legislative affairs, has said that Pennsylvania officials see this opportunity to pawn infrastructure as a bailout for years of mismanaging transportation revenue highlighted by the state’s $3.5 billion annual shortfall.
“They continue to want to avoid responsibility for paying for highways,” Bowley remarked. “Politicians love to talk about the importance of improving highways, yet they are afraid to figure out ways to pay for them on their own.”
OOIDA has issued multiple Calls to Action to Pennsylvania members on the issue. Another notice will soon be sent that encourages truckers to continue to contact their state senators about the legislation.
To view other legislative activities of interest and OOIDA Calls to Action for Pennsylvania, click here.
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