Not everyone is happy with the transportation plan nearing passage in the Pennsylvania legislature.
The conservative political action group Americans for Prosperity is calling the plan an attack on working Pennsylvanians. The proposal increases registration, licensing and other motor vehicle fees to get the funding needed for transportation projects. It also removes a cap on a tax paid by gas stations.
“The gas burden on most families’ budgets it becoming a bigger and bigger portion, so we have to shrink other areas, whether it’s our food, what we do for our children, in our life in general, a tax like this completely alters our standard of living, it makes everything more expensive,” said Jennifer Stefano, state director for Americans for Prosperity Pennsylvania.
The bill would increase taxes on gasoline at the wholesale level, which could boost prices at the pump by a quarter or more within five years.
The measure would generate between $2.3 billion and $2.4 billion annually for transportation funding after five years. The figure includes about $1.6 billion for highways and bridges, and nearly $500 million for mass transit.
Americans for Prosperity said more funding isn’t need, especially not from taxpayers, and instead supports a change in priorities in Harrisburg. Stefano said the group thinks the legislature should make road and bridge repairs and upkeep the top priority.
“They refuse to prioritize that, they refuse to cut spending on things like bike paths and to cut down spending on mass transit and (using the money) instead to fix roads and bridges which the vast majority of Pennsylvanians, in fact every Pennsylvanian, uses,” she said.
Many lawmakers disagree, and say bike paths and public transit are key to a robust transportation system. Many people rely on public transportation to get to and from work, especially in larger urban areas.
This is the first major highway bill in Pennsylvania in several years. It includes changes to the state's law setting wages on certain smaller public works projects, effectively reducing laborers' pay for roadwork projects priced at less than $100,000 dollars.
It passed the state Senate Wednesday night with seven lawmakers voting no. One of those “nay” votes came from Sen. Jay Costa, who said he opposes the prevailing wage component that was included.
“In the House they added a prevailing wage provision which, to me, was inappropriate, was the wrong thing to do,” Costa said. “It will be harmful to working families. It’s putting fewer dollars into the pockets of workers across this commonwealth and putting more money into the hands and into the pockets of contractors and that’s not something we should have been doing.”
Even though he voted no, Costa said he supports the other provisions in the bill.
“In order to have a robust transportation system that meets the needs of the folks, the businesses in the community and travelers, to have a safe and robust transportation system, you have to make investments,” Costa said. “We haven’t made an investment in our transportation infrastructure and our transit since 1997.”