Gov. Tom Corbett got a much needed win when the state House of Representatives finally approved a transportation funding bill.
Corbett, with sagging poll numbers as he readies a run for re-election in 2014, soon will be able to claim a victory from one of his key legislative agenda items. The others, a much harder sell before the election, are privatizing state liquor sales and reforming the state’s public pensions.
The $2.3 billion annual transportation funding bill for roads, bridges and mass transit is expected to win approval in the Senate because that chamber approved a similar bill back in June. It passed the House on Tuesday night.
It will be interesting to see the political ramifications of the plan, which is being funded largely by removing the cap on the oil company franchise tax rate. Critics such as state Reps. Patrick Harkins, of Erie, D-1st Dist., and Ryan Bizzarro, of Millcreek, D-3rd Dist., say the oil companies will pass along that increase to consumers at the gas pumps, an increase that could amount to 28.5 cents per gallon.
But state Rep. Greg Lucas, of Edinboro, R-5th Dist., said the oil companies could absorb some of the increase, which he said would be phased in over five years. Lucas noted that gas wars have led to fluctuating prices at the pumps.
The state’s gas tax is now 50.7 cents per gallon.
The transportation plan also would be funded by an increase in driver’s licenses, car registrations and some traffic violations.
In a statement, Corbett said the House “made a dramatic choice to invest in the future of Pennsylvania. In doing so, they have set the stage for the safety of our children and the economic prosperity for Pennsylvania.
“Voting for a comprehensive transportation plan will keep our transportation system safe and efficient, improve the state’s economy, and improve the quality of life for our 12 million-plus residents,” he said.
For more information on transportation funding, visit www.dot.state.pa.us.
– John Guerriero