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Senate Drives Transportation Bill Closer to Law

TransitThe major transportation funding bill that has kept politicos up late every night this week passed the Senate today in a 43-7 vote.

Republicans were 25-2  in favor of the bill. Republican Sens. Hutchinson (Butler) and Ward (Westmoreland) voting against. Democrats were 18-5 in favor. Democratic Sens. Boscola (Northampton), Costa (Allegheny), Farnese (Philadelphia), Kasunic (Fayette) and Teplitz (Dauphin) voted against the bill.

House Bill 1060 passed the House yesterday, after three votes on an amendment that set the funding levels, increased vehicle and gas taxes and increased the prevailing wage threshold from $25,000 to $100,000.

Senate battle over the bill was extensive, as Senate rules require an introduction vote, second consideration and finally, a vote on third consideration. The rules also require six hours between introduction and final passage.

The House is expected to vote affirmatively on concurrence of the bill coming from the Senate, as it contains no changes from what they approved last night.

Senate Democrats attempted to remove the prevailing wage changes but were ultimately unsuccessful. Their amendment to eliminate that language was blocked by Senate Republicans.

Senators Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) offered harsh criticisms to majority leaders in the moments before the final vote.

“It is imperative that the minority has their say,” Farnese said. “I think what we’ve really seen today is some of the worst aspects of government in play.”

HB 1060 is different from SB 1 which was passed in June with strong bipartisan support. SB 1 had no change to the prevailing wage law.

“It does contain changes that in my opinion are necessary to win passage of this bill in the House.” Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) said in defense of the alterations. “I think we’re presented with a very clear choice: we either compromise with members of the House so that this ends up on the Governor’s desk,” or we refuse compromise and end up in a stalemate.

The final transportation plan includes $2.3 billion per year by 2017-18 for the state’s transportation system, with approximately $1.65 billion dedicated to highways and bridges and $476 million to $497 million dedicated to mass transit.

State Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) defended the bill’s right flank.

“A lot of critics will look at the cost of this bill. I think at the same time to be fair you have to focus on the cost of not doing this bill,” he said.

Under the bill, the cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax (OCFT) will be incrementally eliminated over a period of five years. The OCFT is the tax on the average wholesale price of gasoline; it had been capped at $1.25 per gallon since 1983. Fees and fines paid by motorists are also set to increase to pay for the increase in transit funding.

Governor Corbett is sure to sign the bill as soon as it reaches his desk, as transportation funding has long been a priority of his administration. After the bill passes, the General Assembly will be dismissed for Thanksgiving recess.

Keegan Gibson contributed to this report.

5 Responses

  1. Know you are new at writing for PoliticsPA, but the members of the General Assembly you mentioned above are state senators not representatives.

  2. Heard Mr. Metcalf on the radio this morning. Wondering if he and his colleagues would be willing to give up unvouchered per diems in order to cut the “wasteful” spending he is always harping about. His $154,000 in unvouchered per diems would be a great start to cutting wasteful spending.

  3. Just a minor note – the House also considers legislation three times after it’s been reported from committee, but neither the House nor the Senate votes on bills on first consideration.

    On second consideration, a bill is subject to debate and amendment, at which time it is supposed to be sent to Appropriations for a fiscal note determining what effect the legislation would have on the finances of the Commonwealth. Finally, on third consideration, the bill can either be voted up or down.

  4. Apparently $50 million in WAM funds are tucked in the bill for the Harrisburg elite to take back to their districts for pet projects.

  5. Wonder what else was added to the bill by the Senate? Did notice the Scarnati-sponsored 70 mile per hour speed limit.

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