Pennsylvania bill would fund road and bridge work without tolls, new taxes

| 11/21/2008

Time is running out on a bipartisan plan in the Pennsylvania House to fund road and bridge repairs without new taxes or tolls.

Sponsored by Reps. Keith McCall, D-Lansford, and David Argall, R-Tamaqua, the plan would pay for much-needed transportation projects. It involves rerouting money from the state’s Motor License Fund that now is used by the State Police.

The state’s Department of Transportation controls the Motor License Fund, which is supported by the state’s fuel tax, motor vehicle license and registration fees, as well as other fees.

The State Police receive $500 million annually from the fund. The money supplies about two-thirds of the total State Police budget.

But McCall and Argall want to wean law enforcement off the fund. During the next 10 years, the patrol would receive $50 million less than the prior year. Instead, the State Police budget would gradually be funded out of the state’s general fund.

As a result of changing the funding setup, the state’s DOT would gain $2.75 billion during the next decade for such projects as road and bridge work. Each year after, PennDOT would get $500 million for those projects.

McCall, the House Democratic Whip, said the plan enables the state to ensure that roads and bridges are fixed and the State Police are properly funded. Argall, the House Republican Whip, also pointed out the legislation doesn’t require residents to foot the bill with new taxes or tolls.

Both lawmakers oppose plans to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike. They are critical of putting too much revenue into private businesses and banks while removing a source of income for the state.

More than 50 House Democrats and Republicans added their names to the list of bill co-sponsors.

“This proposal is neither Republican nor Democrat, because the roads and bridges that need repair are throughout our Commonwealth,” Argall said in a written statement.

The bill – HB2309 – is in the House Transportation Committee. All legislation must be approved by both chambers prior to the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for Nov. 30.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor