Government & Politics
6:50 am
Tue June 25, 2013

House Puts Off Panel Vote on Transportation Plan

State House Republicans are preparing major changes to a bill to fund roads, bridges and mass transit, despite warning cries from some of their colleagues in the Senate.

The $1.8 billion plan doesn't include any of the traffic violation fines or motorist fee increases lawmakers were grumbling about. But it still uncaps a tax paid by gas stations, doing so over 10 years, instead of three, as the Senate proposed.

It also greatly reduces funding for mass transit, and it's largely for that reason that Democratic House Minority Leader Frank Dermody said Monday that his members won't support it.

"If they need Democratic help for this, forget it," Dermody told reporters. "There's not going to be Democratic help for that amendment."

The amendment itself, though, did not receive a vote from the House Transportation Committee, as was the schedule for Monday, which the House GOP spokesman, Steve Miskin, chalked up to a bill "drafting error" and said would give members more time to look at the legislation.

Miskin also dismissed Democrats' concerns about the changes to the bill.

"They just want to spend more money quicker, and that's their only argument," Miskin said, "but the fact is that PennDOT can only spend so much money at a time. You can't just spend it all at once."

While both the Senate and the governor's transportation plans would have looked to increase revenue over a five year period, the House amendment would soften the blow of a tax increase on gas stations by meting it out over 10 years.

Before the Senate adjourned for the day, its transportation bill's Republican author, Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) urged that roads, bridges, and public transit should get no less than the $2.5 billion his chamber approved.

The House GOP's amended plan would require local governments to provide more funding for their mass transit and gives them leeway to do that with local tax increases. It would also require transit systems to try to outsource at least 10 percent of their bus lines a year to private companies that can run the services more efficiently.