House Finally Passes Transportation Funding Plan

After years of describing the situation as a crisis, lawmakers in the state House finally approved a comprehensive funding plan for roads, bridges and mass transit in Pennsylvania late Tuesday.

The favorable vote came just one day after the House rejected the same proposal. PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch says he believes some lawmakers reconsidered the impact of their negative votes overnight and that led to a change of heart for 6 Republicans and 2 Democrats.

Rep. Seth Grove (R-York) said he changed his vote after being reassured the bill would keep changes to reduce laborers’ pay on smaller public works projects, and that the Senate would further amend the measure to reduce the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s current borrowing load. One House GOP aide suggested that deal had yet to be sewed up.

The plan would provide about $2.3 billion annually, and includes increased fees and the removal of a cap on a wholesale gasoline tax. A block of Republican lawmakers had opposed those revenue generators, while a group of Democrats objected to demands by the GOP for prevailing wage reform. In the end, the bill had a little bit to make everyone unhappy, but not enough to stop a majority of lawmakers from approving the much-needed funding plan.

The vote is also a much-needed victory for the Corbett Administration, which lobbied hard to get lawmakers to pass a funding plan for road and bridge repair and mass transit. The failure of this major initiative had been hanging over the governor’s head on the eve of a re-election campaign in 2014.

The plan now goes to the Senate, which passed a similar proposal last June. Senate leaders were planning to meet Wednesday morning to discuss the legislation.