Pennsylvania's pump prices hinder fuel tax hike effort

| 10/6/2004

Gov. Ed Rendell on Tuesday, Oct. 5, blamed high fuel prices for state lawmakers’ hesitation to increase Pennsylvania’s fuel tax to help pay for mass transit and road work.

“I don’t think there’s support for it,” Rendell said.

There will be attempts over the next two months to create a dedicated source for mass transit funding, the governor told local media, without elaborating much beyond mentioning “fees.” Rendell did not rule out a tax hike, saying he “probably” would sign such a bill if the General Assembly approves it.

The governor’s comments came shortly after two House leaders Tuesday told a mass transit conference that a dedicated funding stream for public transportation won’t happen unless the fuel tax is increased.

“There won’t be a mass transit funding bill without a gas tax bill,” House Minority Whip Mike Veon, D-Beaver Falls, said. House Transportation Chairman Rick Geist, R-Altoona, agreed. Both said there is a window of several weeks to consider a tax hike after the Nov. 2 election. The legislative session is scheduled to end Nov. 30.

Geist told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review a 12-cent-a-gallon hike in the fuel tax is needed to address all of the state’s transportation needs, though he believes no increase approaching that magnitude would actually be approved. How large an increase could win political support remains to be seen, Geist and Veon said.

The average price for a gallon of diesel in the state is $2.14, while gasoline runs about $1.95, according to the U.S. Energy Department.