Speakers portray funding solution prospects as mixed
Those who attended the PHIA Transportation Conference and Annual Meeting came away with a combination of good and bad news related to the likelihood of transportation funding solutions.
PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said he remains optimistic that the General Assembly and administration will begin tackling the funding issue, perhaps as soon as May, and that he believes that whatever policymakers support, it will include the most important elements among the recommendations of the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission.
Schoch said he and Governor Corbett plan to meet with legislative leaders at the end of April to determine a course of action.
Sen. Jake Corman also delivered a pep talk, urging attendees to continue the push and keep the faith. Corman, who introduced legislation in the Senate that mirrored the TFAC recommendations, said he believes the Senate is ready to address the issue and has the votes to advance the issue.
Corman made an interesting point countering the notion that legislators will have a difficult time with gasoline hovering at $4 per gallon. He noted that the oil companies price their product by region based on what the markets will bear, and because of the current price may actually absorb a greater portion of any Oil Company Franchise Tax increase instead of passing it along to motorists.
Schoch and Corman both spoke of the “cost of doing nothing,” noting that Pennsylvanians can either pay to fix the problem, or pay to continue to have the problem. Congested roads, rough pavement and weight-restricted or closed bridges increase the cost of fuel and maintenance, as well as for products that move through the Commonwealth.
As for a solution at the federal level, Congressman Bill Shuster’s keynote address was not as cheery. There is no appetite in Washington increase the federal fuel taxes, he said, nor is there enough support for expanded tolling at present.
Shuster said he has been tasked with “selling” the House Republican’s proposed five-year funding bill before the latest funding extension – the ninth since the most recent funding measure expired 2 ½ years ago – expires at the end of June.
PHIA wishes to thank the speakers, as well as attendees, for a successful event.
Anyone who has ideas or comments regarding the event is welcome to email Managing Director Jason Wagner at jwagner@PaHighwayInfo.org.