Pennsylvania’s Alternative Transportation Funding Plan ‘Dead on Arrival’, Lawmakers Say |


(The Center Square) – A package of transportation revenue options proposed last week will not be passed by the General Assembly this year, lawmakers have said, leaving questions about how the state will solve its problem of transportation. multi-billion dollar infrastructure.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s Transportation Revenue Options Committee released its final report on Friday that recommends a patchwork of taxes and fees on drivers, electric vehicles and packages delivered by Amazon, UPS, FedEx and grocery chains . It also includes tolls in the corridors, surcharges on carpooling services, an increase in registration fees and a phasing out of the gasoline tax.

Each vehicle driven in the state would also pay a road user fee totaling 8.1 cents per mile. In total, the proposed options would bring in, over the next decade, around $ 11.4 billion – slightly more than enough to cover the $ 9.35 billion funding gap at the state level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Pennsylvania Transportation, the commission said.

Transport Secretary Yassmin Gramian, who chaired the committee, said on Friday that the report offered “a host of well-documented options to consider.”

“This commission represents nearly 50 transport players, with a diversity of positions on the potential financing options discussed,” she said. “These varied perspectives were crucial to our discussions and are represented in the final report.”

Absent from the commission, however, were lawmakers on either side of the aisle. Rep. Jason Ortitay, R-Bridgeville, said lawmakers were watching the meetings behind the scenes and could not participate directly.

He told The Center Square on Tuesday that the group had never voted on the plan he was proposing and had essentially put together a “wish list” that complicates the state’s tax structure and commits “highway theft. “against residents.

“The state government basically nickel and kills everyone, and then the governor issues a plan that further raises nickel and kills everyone,” he said.

Wolf convened the commission earlier this year after PennDOT released a public-private partnership plan for tolling nine interstate bridges that outraged many members of the General Assembly who said the increased costs for driving in the midst of a pandemic was “unreasonable.” The agency began soliciting contractors for the plan in late June. The North Fork Bridges on Interstate 80 in Jefferson County are part of the bridge toll proposal.

Ortitay said this week that the new options on offer, in many ways, are even worse.

“He’s a lame duck governor, and our leaders have already hinted at it’s dead on arrival,” he said. “The secretary basically said this was a top priority over the next six months… but we’re not going to work with you on that. You didn’t include us in the process and now you want it to go through the General Assembly? No thanks.”

Neal Lesher, spokesperson for House Appropriations Committee chairman Stan Saylor, R-Red Lion, confirmed Ortitay’s comment that the income options plan is ‘dead on arrival’ at the time. lower house.

“I would like PennDOT to do a commission or a study to actually see how they’re spending money now,” Ortitay said. “There is no reason why a Scandinavian country could build a $ 5 million bridge in two days, whereas here it takes six months to a year.

Senate Transport Committee Chairman Wayne Langerholc R-Clearfield also criticized PennDOT’s persistent budget gap, which the agency said will exceed $ 14.5 billion over the next decade.

He told The Center Square in July that he didn’t think those predictions were true and that there was no way PennDOT could ever spend that amount of money, even if the legislature made it their own.

PennDOT’s funding problem is compounded by a 2013 law, Bill 89, which restructured the gasoline tax to generate more revenue for repairing roads and bridges that failed to meet demand. Gramian said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on travel reduced the agency’s revenue by $ 533 million.

About 75% of funding for transportation projects comes from state gasoline tax revenues, according to PennDOT.

In the report, the agency highlights the efficiencies it implemented to save money, including: $ 38.5 million over three years by using lower-cost materials for secondary roads; $ 49 million over four years under the county accreditation program; and $ 10 million over five years through employee suggested changes under the WorkSmart and IdeaLink programs.

Ortitay agrees the state needs to replace the gasoline tax as a source of revenue, but cannot say for sure whether any of the 18 proposed options would gain legislative approval.

“It’s not about doing things better – just the need to increase taxes and fees,” Ortitay said. “There should have been a commission to look at how we’re doing things now versus how other states and countries are doing them. We should be looking for cost savings, instead of jumping straight to a billion dollar increase in taxes and fees. “

Langerholc said his Drive Smart Act would combine reforms to the public-private partnership program, increases in traffic fines, reduced transfers of funds for driver’s licenses and a list of other changes to help reduce the agency budget gap. However, the plan still includes the toll on the I-95 Gerard Point bridge in Philadelphia.

A $ 279 million state budget credit in June, he said, could help kickstart his plan.

“We have targeted these dollars to put Pennsylvania businesses and workers back in rebuilding our transportation system,” he said. “This investment will alleviate the immediate concerns we have heard over the past few months regarding transportation shortages. “

The state could also see a windfall in federal transportation funding if Congress passes a $ 1,000 billion infrastructure plan pending in the US Senate. The proposal includes $ 110 billion for roads, bridges and other major transportation projects.

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