Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to reroute money to roads, bridges

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/14/2013

If a Pennsylvania state lawmaker gets his way, the state’s roads and bridges would get about $1.3 billion a year without new taxes or raising fees.

Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford, told the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, Nov. 12, about his plan to raise $6.6 billion for road and bridge work in the next decade.

His bill, HB1630, would rely on sales tax revenue from vehicle purchases to help eat into a transportation funding shortfall that is estimated at $3.5 billion. Money from the 6 percent state sales tax now goes to the general fund.

“It makes sense to use the sales tax revenue from a car purchase to pay for repairs that will improve the roads and bridges necessary to drive the car,” Roae testified.

Pennsylvania now collects about $1.2 billion in sales tax revenue on vehicle sales in the state. The amount is estimated to grow to $1.32 billion in the next fiscal year.

Starting in the 2014-2015 state budget, Roae’s bill would reroute 10 percent, or $132 million, from the state budget to the state Motor License Fund. The fund pays for road and bridge repairs.

The amount diverted would be increased in 10 percent increments over the next decade until 100 percent of the sales tax revenue is applied to roads and bridges in the 2023-2024 fiscal year.

Roae offered his bill as another option to a stalled $2.5 billion transportation funding plan that could result in a 28-cent increase in the state’s fuel tax rate. The Senate-approved bill, SB1, has awaited consideration on the House floor since the summer.

Ryan Bowley, OOIDA director of Legislative Affairs, said the Association supports any proposal that returns funds paid by highway users back to maintain and improve roads and bridges.

“The Keystone State is just that for truckers moving goods across so much of the country, so it is critical that any funding proposal maximize the amount of funds dedicated to roads and bridges,” Bowley said.

He also points out that the proposal addresses a good portion of Pennsylvania’s transportation funding needs.

Roae said the $130 million that would be moved from the general fund in the first year amounts to about four-tenths of 1 percent of the current $28.4 billion state budget. In 10 years the amount would increase to 4 percent.

He said that lawmakers could cover that amount by addressing waste, fraud, abuse and low-priority spending in the state budget.

“Can the government run on 96 percent of the money the government has now? I think it can.”

The House Finance Committee can take the bill up for additional consideration as early as this fall. Pennsylvania is in the first year of a two-year session.

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