Call it Gov. Tom Corbett’s road show.
The state Legislature has yet to seriously take up the issue of transportation funding. But members of the Corbett Administration have been traveling the state to publicly tie dollars for eagerly-anticipated transportation projects to the funding plan.
It may be an attempt to head-off opposition before it gets fully-organized. The funding strategy relies on what could be a controversial tax increase of about 25 cents on every gallon of gas.
Last week, Transportation Secretary Barry Shoch joined lawmakers and community leaders in Sunbury to announce the plan would provide $558 million to complete a Thruway project that has been on the drawing board for 30 years.
In March, Corbett, a Republican, announced transportation plan dollars would help provide the subsidy needed to keep the Harrisburg-to-Pittsburgh Amtrak route running.
The Department of Transportation plans to release a complete list of projects that depend on gas-tax plan funds later this spring, said PennDOT spokesman Steve Chizmar. But, the department has already disclosed a dozen such projects worth a combined $1.2 billion in construction costs.
That is essentially the same amount Corbett’s plan would set aside to repair state-owned roads every year once the plan is fully funded.
Because the gas tax increase is being phased in, Corbett's plan would generate about $510 million in additional transportation funding in the first year and $1.8 billion a year at the end of five years.
The governor's plan would devote an additional $1.2 billion to state-owned roads and bridges; $250 million more to mass transit; $200 million more for local roads and bridges; and $75 million to fund trains and airports.
Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria County, said it has been easy for lawmakers to say they will support the transportation plan since the notion that it will translate into higher prices at the pump has not been widely recognized by the public. In addition, many Republican lawmakers have taken no-tax increase pledges. The governor, who has been adamantly opposed to tax increases himself, has tried to create some wiggle room.
The plan is to lift the ceiling on a wholesale gas tax. Because of the ceiling, the gas tax is based on a top price of $1.25 a gallon even though gas now can cost three-times that much.
Wozniak said the state has not increased the gas tax since 1997.
The tax increase is almost certainly needed because the state has to fix its roads and bridges, he said.
“If we don’t do something, and then a bridge falls down, everyone will be asking why we didn’t do something,” he said.
But if the plan depends on motorists paying more at the gas station, that kind of pain in the wallet is going to need to be shared.
“If there is going to be pain at the pump, then mass transit is going to have to have some skin in the game too,” Wozniak said.
This sentiment is felt by many rural lawmakers.
“Car owners pay a gasoline tax, a registration fee, an inspection sticker fee, a drivers license fee, they pay sales tax when they buy their car, they pay sales tax on auto repairs, they pay sales tax on auto parts, they pay a tire tax, they pay a car lease tax, and they pay tolls to use some highways and bridges,” said Rep. Bradley Roae, R-Crawford County. “Mass transit riders who do not own cars pay zero for our transportation system. They contribute nothing. If we consider raising the gasoline tax, we should also consider a mass transit tax so that all Pennsylvania citizens share in the cost of our transportation system.”
Call it Gov. Tom Corbett’s road show.
- Closer Look
Commission reviews 11 well pad plans
As Marcellus and Utica shale drilling continues and pipelines are laid, plans are in place for more well pads locally. The Lawrence County Planning Commission reviewed land development plans Tuesday for 11 sites for well pads, which are where the drilling rigs are set up.
Advocates cry foul over phone deregulation bid
Consumer advocates and the AARP are warning that a telephone deregulation bill would allow phone companies across the commonwealth to shed price controls that have kept land-line phone bills cheaper than wireless phone bills.
County considers 911 land purchase
A 42-acre tract in Hickory Township is likely to become the home of Lawrence County’s 911 center. The county commissioners said they will vote Tuesday on a sales agreement for the purchase of property owned by Frank R. and Kimberly Augustine and Michael H., Janet, Michael A. and Kathlene Linz.
Pulaski approves changes for wells
The Pulaski Township supervisors approved zoning changes for two more well pads and several wells for Hilcorp Energy Co.
Our Opinion: Local tax incentive efforts have little in common
There’s been a lot of local activity lately in terms of tax abatement. In New Castle, a proposal surfaced last month to change the existing property tax abatement schedule in the city.
County sets deadline on accepting checks
The Lawrence County treasurer’s office will not be accepting any personal checks after this week. Starting Monday, the office will not take a personal check at the counter or one that is postmarked later than Dec. 15.
Corbett wants job search added to Medicaid
Gov. Tom Corbett’s version of Medicaid expansion would make Pennsylvania the only state in the union to require working poor people to look for better jobs in order to get government-subsidized health insurance.
Photo Gallery: Annual Ellwood City Christmas parade
Hundreds came “Home for the Holidays” to Ellwood City during the borough’s annual Christmas parade. More than 30 floats participated in the day’s procession, which started at Lincoln High School and wound its way through Lawrence Avenue.
Governor could get child abuse bills by month’s end
Cumbersome legal definitions of child abuse can stymie doctors, nurses and caseworkers who might believe a child is in danger, according to advocates lobbying for changes to the state’s child welfare system.
John K. Manna: Party labels shouldn’t matter in local contests
Anything is possible in elections, but often improbable when it comes to school board races in Pennsylvania. In the Nov. 5 election, voters went to the polls in six of the eight school districts in Lawrence County and were faced with little choice.
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- Commission reviews 11 well pad plans