Lawmakers Advance State Transportation Funding Bill
After days of false starts, a plan to fund Pennsylvania’s roads, bridges and mass transit has cleared a state House committee vote.
The roughly $2 billion proposal has received bipartisan support, though many Democrats say they still have concerns it contains too little money for mass transit.
Republican Transportation Committee Chairman Dick Hess said he’s open to more changes to the plan when it’s up for a vote before the full House.
"Sure, there’s things in here that maybe I don’t really care for or one of the other members don’t care for, but as long as we’re advancing something, it’s going to be better for the general public as a whole," he said. "We have to do it."
Amendments, Hess said, could come on Saturday.
Eliminated from the plan are flashpoints such as higher license and registration fees and prevailing wage reforms.
The plan would phase gradually uncap a tax paid by gas stations over five years. It also would hike fines for moving violations, as well as increase taxes on tires and vehicle leases.
Under the plan, local governments would have to pay more of the share for their mass transit, and they would be permitted to raise certain taxes to do so.
Democrats are suggesting the funding plan be completely re-tooled, with money coming from the implementation of a severance tax on natural gas.
Rep. Mike McGeehan, the ranking Democrat on the Transportation Committee, said it’s not that he’s opposed to that, but it’s just not an option on the table.
"We have to deal with the hand that’s dealt us," he said. "And right now the hand that’s in front of the committee was Senate Bill One and the amendment. I mean, we — I wish you know it rained ice cream too but, you know, it doesn’t."
Democratic state Rep. Mike Carroll of Luzerne County said he has concerns about allowing local governments to increase taxes to pay for mass transit funding, but he’s not holding out for a perfect proposal.
"When the General Assembly was ever going to get around to the discussion of transportation funding, there was a zero percent chance of a bill that could be generated that would enjoy unanimous support from every single interest group," he said.