A new Pennsylvania law could make travel through the state a pricey proposition for truckers and others. Specifically, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law a bill to allow the state 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 roads. 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.”
Dubbed Act 88, the new law sets up a framework for deals with private groups to fund work on roads and bridges.
An August 2011 report from the governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission recommended that authorization be given for public-private partnerships to complete transportation projects, as well as obtain tolling authority on existing interstates.
The commission’s report 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.
Rep. Rick Geist, D-Altoona, said passage of his bill – HB3 – is an important step in addressing the state’s infrastructure.
“This act opens a new chapter in the way Pennsylvania can fund projects designed to repair and replace our structurally deficient roads and bridges with the cooperation, financial resources and efficiencies of the private sector,” Geist said in a statement.
Deals could be reached for any existing road, including adding a toll lane to Interstate 95. One road system that is off-limits to private business is the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Instead, lawmakers would need to approve any effort to hand over the turnpike.
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.
The new law requires a seven-member board to be created in Pennsylvania to review toll proposals. Four state lawmakers will 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.
“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,” Bowley said.
Geist, who is retiring from the General Assembly, said the public should expect to see a lot of public-private partnership agreements long after he has left office at the end of the current session.
“Providing a safe and reliable transportation system is one of the core functions of government,” Geist stated. “I envision P3s playing a vital role.”
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