Pennsylvania gov to lawmakers: Make a deal on transportation funding

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gov. Tom Corbett once again called on Pennsylvania state lawmakers to get a deal done on a transportation funding bill before the end of the year.

Speaking at the capitol on Wednesday, Oct. 23, Corbett called on Republicans and Democrats to resolve their differences after they left Harrisburg for three weeks without reaching a deal to fund road, bridge and transit work.

“This is not a partisan issue,” Corbett said while banging his hand on a lectern for emphasis. “I don’t see Democrat or Republican written on the roads or bridges. I don’t see it on the transit signs.”

Senate lawmakers voted in June to advance to the House a $2.5 billion transportation funding plan that could result in a 28-cent increase in the state’s fuel tax rate. A revised version of the bill – SB1 – has awaited consideration on the House floor since the summer.

“We saw a bipartisan bill come out of the Senate,” Corbett said. “We may not agree on all aspects of it but we need a bill out of the House and we need to work out the differences.”

Divisions on the bill run deep. Democrats aren’t satisfied with revenue that would be earmarked for mass transit. Republicans say new taxes and fees would pile on taxpayers. To gain support in their own party, House GOP leaders want to change the state’s prevailing wage laws on transportation work. However, House Democrats have balked at the proposal.

In the meantime, Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch has lamented the consequences of lawmakers’ inability to resolve the issue.

Schoch recently told members of the Senate Transportation Committee that due to their failure to act “the consequences have already started.” Soon afterward, the state Department of Transportation lowered weight limits on 1,000 bridges across the state.

The governor said that lawmakers must act now to change the direction of the state’s infrastructure.

“There are thousands of bridges in Pennsylvania that are crumbling and we do not have the money to fix them. It’s that simple. The General Assembly has the opportunity to fix this problem.”

The Senate-approved funding plan would lift a cap on the oil company franchise tax. The move could increase the per-gallon tax on fuel more than 28 cents over five years because the companies are expected to pass along much of the increase to consumers. Currently, the tax applies only to the first $1.25 per gallon of the wholesale price.

Eliminating the cap on fuel prices now exceeding $3 per gallon would go a long way to help the state raise about $1.8 billion annually for roads and bridges once the cap is completely lifted. About $510 million would be applied to other modes of transportation.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to the capitol in mid November.

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

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