Top Lawmaker Wants to Address Transportation Funding Now

Make room in the already crowded fall agenda.  In addition to Marcellus Shale, education reform, redistricting and privatization – transportation funding is the latest high profile issue to be added to the front burner.  State Senate Appropriations Chair Jake Corman (R-Centre) tells reporters that he’ll soon introduce legislation that mirrors the recommendations of the governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission.

Pennsylvania faces a roughly $3.5-billion annual transportation funding gap, and the commission’s recommendations would raise $2.5-billion by year five.  “We’re going to do this someday and it’s not going to get cheaper,” Sen. Corman says.  “The only reason not to do it is political fear, and that’s just not acceptable.” 

The Transportation Funding Advisory Commission would raise the money for roads and bridges by uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax, indexing vehicle and driver fees to inflation and increasing fines and fees for traffic violations.  The average driver could pay up to $36 more in year one, and $132 more by year five.  However, those amounts could be lower depending on how much of the oil franchise tax is passed onto consumers. 

But Corman says inaction is not saving Pennsylvanians any money.  “We’re going to pay it in extra gasoline in traffic; we’re going to pay it in extra wear and tear on our vehicles.  You know it’s an average 10-mile detour when a bridge is closed down,” Corman explained to reporters after session on Wednesday.

Corman says the time to act is now, but acknowledges that it will require direction from the governor, as the Transportation Committee chairmen have indicated no interest in moving this legislation without hearing from Gov. Tom Corbett. 

To this point, Corbett hasn’t made any decisions about how to approach transportation funding.  Speaking at a news conference earlier this month, Corbett said, “They’re all priorities that we need to take a look at, but not everything can go first.”  The governor was responding to a question about where transportation funding fits into the fall legislative agenda.