Senate passes $2.3 billion Pa. transportation plan
Pennsylvania lawmakers are poised to pass the first comprehensive transportation funding plan since 1997. The $2.3 billion package will finance repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and highways -- and help fund mass transit.
Pulling a second late night, the House of Representatives found the votes to pass a transportation package Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, the Senate approved the latest funding proposal that still requires one more vote of concurrence in the House before the bill is sent to Gov. Tom Corbett for his signature.
House lawmakers are expected to take up that measure Thursday afternoon.
The news of a potential deal came to the great relief of transportation advocates around the state Wednesday.
The bill directs $340 million annually to SEPTA, which has immediate plans to begin capital improvement projects, said Joe Casey, SEPTA general manager.
"We have a 100-year-old system that desperately, desperately needs to be rehabilitated," he said. "And this gives us the resources to invest in this system."
SEPTA had threatened to close down regional rail lines, which would have affected nearly 100,000 commuters daily, if it did not get money to make repairs.
Democrats, GOP adamantly oppose parts of measure
The harshest objections to the measure during Senate debate was the part of the deal included to get more House Republicans on board.
Democrats protested the move to effectively reduce pay to laborers on smaller, local transportation public works projects.
Some GOP members withheld support because of their concerns about raising gas taxes and motorist fees.
Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, acknowledged the bipartisan nature of the dissatisfaction. Such is compromise, he said.
"Governing is getting what we can get passed. All four caucuses were at the table, all four caucuses had priorities, some of them were less than mine, but nevertheless, this is what gets the votes," Corman said Wednesday.
Jason Wagner, of the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, also sounded upbeat Wednesday after months of uncertainty about whether the funding plan would win approval.
"We're very pleased because, we've said from the beginning, this had to be a comprehensive funding package that meets the needs of the commonwealth," he said.
The funding plan counts on increased fees on motorists, a surcharge on moving violations and lifting the cap on the oil franchise tax, which will bump up prices at the pump.