When Tom Corbett unveiled his budget in February, he included what he perceived as a big increase to transportation spending. For Senate Transportation Committee Chair John Rafferty (R-Montgomery) and 44 of his colleagues, it wasn’t enough.
The Senate’s transportation funding bill allocates $2.5 billion, up from the Governor’s proposed $1.8 billion.
Like the Corbett plan, its cost is covered largely by an increase of 28.5 cents in the gas franchise tax, a 100 dollar surcharge on moving violations and changes to the licensing and registration fees which increases their cost while decreasing the mandatory frequency of renewing them.
“I am very pleased by the collaborative effort of members from rural, suburban and urban communities in crafting this legislation,” Rafferty said. “It received such strong bipartisan support because it will benefit residents in every area of our state.”
The legislation sets aside $1.9 billion for highways and bridges and $510 million for mass transit. Many of the Senators voiced their support out of concern for the commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure after one study demonstrated that PA has nearly 4,400 structurally deficient bridges, and 23 percent of its state-owned roads are in poor condition.
“This measure is about safety, job creation and Pennsylvania’s economy. All of our transportation systems are intricately important to our communities. This measure will create a better a commonwealth for our next generation,” said Senator John Wozniak (D-Cambria).
The plan received widespread support from business groups, transit authorities, unions, and construction firms. Airports, shipping ports, rail freight as well as walking and bicycle routes will receive $115 million.
After receiving input from Senators on what they needed for their district the bill passed with a strong margin of support, although not unanimous at 45-5.
Its reception by House Republicans has been tepid. Some conservatives have opposed it – vocally.
Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) posted his opposition Facebook stating, “I oppose providing more money to PA public mass transit. We must reduce welfare spending, not increase it!.”
Some House Republicans are hoping to connect the liquor debate and transportation funding.
As House Majority Whip Stan Saylor told Capitolwire, “It’s not the leaders making this decision. House Republican members are insisting liquor gets done. If there are going to be tax hikes for transportation, the members also want to do something pro-business and pro-consumer.”