Transportation Funding Crisis Not a Budget Item

The governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission released its final report in August, and House Democratic Appropriations Chair Joe Markosek (D-Westmoreland/Allegheny) says it’s been ignored for too long.  “I’m just flabbergasted that he’s ignored transportation to the extent that he’s ignored it,” Markosek told us after this week’s budget address.  “It’s just almost unbelievable in my opinion.” 

Pennsylvania faces an annual transportation funding gap that tops $3-billion dollars.  While the new spending plan does not address the matter, Governor Tom Corbett did call it a priority in his budget speech on Tuesday:   

“This is not a budget item.  It is too large for that.  Transportation must be confronted as its own distinct and separate topic.  This problem has grown for the past several decades and it will not be solved overnight.  But, whatever solution we enact must be a lasting one.”

“I have spent significant time considering this issue with my transportation team and developed some workable solutions.  However those solutions will only be possible with your input, assistance and support.” 

Jake Corman

Jake Corman discusses state budget issues with the assembled media.

Senate Republican Appropriations Chair Jake Corman (R-Center) recently put the TFAC recommendations in to bill form in hopes of spurring action on the transportation funding crisis.  But he stresses that this type of funding falls outside of the General Fund and can be addressed at any time – not necessarily during budget season.  “We’ll be waiting for the governor to make his proposal… I look forward to that proposal, and once that comes forward I’m sure we’ll negotiate something that works for everybody,” Corman said during a Q&A with the media following Tuesday’s speech.

Transportation Funding Advisory Commission Final Report

State House Democrats Try to Get Movement on Transportation Funding

Some Democratic leaders in the state house are trying to get more focus on transportation funding issues.   Saying there is a cost to inaction; House Minority Whip Mike Hanna and Caucus Chairman Dan Frankel are introducing a package of bills to help close the state’s transportation funding gap.  The bills are based on the recommendations from the Governor’s own advisory commission on transportation, which issued its report in August. They are also similar to a package proposed by Senate Appropriations Chairman Jake Corman (R-Centre).

Representative Hanna (D-Clinton) says it’s a comprehensive discussion that needs to be had, and they hope to jump start debate. He says   the state’s deteriorating roads and bridges deserve a higher priority than the governor is giving them.

The Governor has said he doesn’t believe the economy’s strong enough to handle higher motorist fees.

Representative Frankel (D-Allegheny) says it’s a matter of reprioritizing. He asks, do legislators want to go back to dealing with school vouchers and liquor sale privatization when the state’s roads and bridges are deteriorating?  He says mass transit, roads and bridges are something he thinks everyone in the Commonwealth understands we need.  He says the other issues are secondary.

Frankel believes the bills have the potential to put Pennsylvanians back to work and strengthen mass transit systems across the state.    His bill, HB2112, would dedicate the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s entire annual Act 44 contribution of 450 million dollars to mass transit.  Currently, 200 million of that money goes to roads and bridges.

Hanna’s bills, HB 2099 and 2101, would adjust driver fees for inflation, increase fines, uncap the Oil and Gas Franchise Tax over five years and modernize PennDOT to achieve savings in an effort to help close the current transportation funding gap.