The chairman of the state Senate Transportation Committee is introducing a plan that would hike motorist fees and some traffic ticket surcharges as a way of coming up with $2.5 billion for transportation infrastructure.
The measure marks the first legislative follow-up to the governor’s $1.8 billion funding plan, which many in industry and the legislature deemed to be too small.
But Republican Sen. John Rafferty of Montgomery County is giving Gov. Tom Corbett credit for taking the first step to roll out a funding proposal in the first place.
"We’ve used that as the base for our plan," Rafferty said. "We recognize the need to do a little bit more in the way of transportation funding to meet the needs of the commonwealth going forward."
The bill aims to generate the dollars to do things like repair old bridges, expand road capacity, maintain ports and railways, as well as plan for bicycle lanes.
The big money-raisers proposed include uncapping the cap on a gas tax paid by gas stations over a shorter period of time than the Corbett administration proposed and adding surcharges to moving violations and increasing the fees for driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.
Corbett said he doesn’t have a specific reaction to the plan at this point, and he has to look at it in more detail.
He said initial bills that go in rarely look the same when completed, and he’ll have to see how this plays out.
“I don’t negotiate against myself in the press," Corbett said. "I will see what the legislature is interested in, but this is just the beginning. It’s not anywhere near the end.”
Rafferty said he doesn’t see a need to hold hearings on his proposal and hoped to schedule a committee vote to advance it in the legislature within the next few weeks.
The legislation appears poised for smooth passage in the Senate, but some House Republicans are already warning it’ll be much more difficult to wrangle votes from their members on a bill that could increase costs for motorists.
Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch says the Corbett administration isn’t yet endorsing the Senate proposal, but he applauded the effort and estimated the added cost to motorists will be similar to what a governor-appointed commission suggested years ago.