Pennsylvania bill dies; sought to fund roads, bridges without tolls, taxes

| 12/3/2008

The clock has struck midnight on a bipartisan plan in the Pennsylvania House to fund road and bridge repairs without new taxes or tolls.

The bill – HB2309 – remained in the House Transportation Committee when the session ended last month, effectively killing it for the year. The legislative effort can be renewed once the next regular session starts in early January.

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

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 wanted to wean law enforcement off the fund. During the next 10 years, the patrol would have received $50 million less than the prior year. Instead, the State Police budget would gradually have been funded out of the state’s General Fund.

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

McCall, the House Democratic Whip, said the plan would have enabled 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 didn’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.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor