GOP lawmaker seeks $2.7 billion for Pa. transportation projects
February 12, 2013By Mary Wilson
The head of the state Department of Transportation is reassuring Pennsylvania lawmakers that Gov. Tom Corbett's proposal to generate revenue for roads, bridges, mass transit, and ports will get a good chunk of the job done.
But it looks like lawmakers' first try at legislation to generate funding will be more ambitious.
The most common concern when it comes to the governor's plan has been: Is it enough?
A lifted tax cap here, a tax reduction there, and the plan would still yield less money -- about $5 billion over five years -- than the governor's transportation funding advisory commission said would be necessary to start fixing up the state's ailing infrastructure. That panel had recommended $2.5 billion a year.
Rep. Dick Hess, R-Bedford, says he's looking for assurances the proposal would fund the kinds of projects his constituents could see and judge for themselves.
"I wanted to be able to say to my people back home, 'This is what your gas tax bought you,'" he said Tuesday.
PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch says what the governor proposed could mean at least $200 million more for construction projects this year if it passed in the spring.
But the Republican senator leading the effort to draft legislation says he's looking to generate more revenue than Corbett has suggested.
"My goal is to reach about $2.7 billion, $2.8 billion," says Sen. John Rafferty, Transportation Committee chairman.
The panel will reach that goal by including measures suggested by the advisory commission -- such as higher license and registration fees and violation fines, said Rafferty, R-Montgomery.
But he says he'll keep the governor's proposed reduction of a tax paid by consumers on gas at the pump, which has been criticized by Democrats as an olive branch to people who rankle at the idea of higher taxes.
It's also causing concern among municipalities who get a piece of the revenues from the tax for their own local transportation costs.
Rafferty says he'll do it chiefly by proposing higher license and registration fees and violation fines.