Facing one of his biggest challenges yet as Governor, Tom Corbett has elected a pragmatic rather than partisan approach to transportation funding. The Associated Press reports that Corbett will unveil his long awaited plan next week.
At its core: a $2 billion increase in the taxes paid by gas stations. Corbett supports lifting a cap on the oil company franchise tax, meaning the wholesale cost of gasoline will go up.
The AP cited two sources familiar with the plan and Corbett has yet to officially confirm any details.
Lifting the cap was the primary funding mechanism proposed by Corbett’s transportation commission in 2011.
If and when he does, he may emphasize the fact that he is removing a cap on the taxes. But the reality is that it effectively will be a tax increase – and potentially a stark departure from his campaign’s no-tax pledge.
Corbett’s decision to take the lead on the matter will give political cover to GOP members of the state legislature. That’s important because any tax increase will be a tough sell to the Republican base.
Conservative activist Bob Guzzardi has spoken favorably of a potential primary challenge to Corbett by Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor. He lambasted the news Thursday in an email.
“PA already has one of the highest liquid fuels tax rates in the country. If Corbett succeeds with his scheme, $4-per-gallon gas could well be on its way!” he wrote. “The Governor has plenty of options at his disposal to fix roads and bridges without reaching into our pockets, such as Public-Private Partnerships, selling the liquor stores, cutting wasteful spending such as the bailout of Big Hollywood, clipping the wings of the costliest legislature in the world, which makes 10 times the salary of lawmakers in Texas, abolishing prevailing wage, and more.”
But many policy analysts have disputed the proposition that Pa.’s aging transportation infrastructure could be improved with less than a significant investment – and corresponding tax increase.
It’s also a plan that stands a strong chance of attracting Democratic support (though their gubernatorial candidate may just as easily campaign against the move in 2014).
Jon Geeting is a liberal commentator with the site Keystone Politics. He had rare, kind words for Corbett.
“I want to see the actual plan before praising Tom Corbett, but if what Angela Couloumbis and Amy Worden are reporting is true, I’ll be impressed,” he wrote.
“This seems like a trial balloon to get a preview of how bad the backlash will be from various corners, so for what it’s worth let me register my approval of the idea.”