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Electric vehicle measure advances in PA House

June 13, 2019

House Bill 1392, the measure that would impose annual fees on all-electric vehicles, was approved by the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee this week and continues on in the legislative process.

Rep. Mike Carroll

Sponsored by Democratic Transportation Chairman Mike Carroll, the bill would eliminate the alternative fuel tax on electricity and replace it with a $150 fee for noncommercial electric vehicles and $250 for commercial vehicles.

The measure was conceived as a way to make sure that electric vehicles contribute to the upkeep of the roads and bridges on which they drive. Conventional vehicles contribute by paying a liquid fuels tax.

Republican Transportation Chairman Tim Hennessey, speaking at a PHIA Policy Breakfast on Tuesday, surmised that the bill will come to the full House when the General Assembly returns from its summer break. From there, it would be considered by the Senate before advancing to Governor Wolf for final approval.

“It’s important for public policy to change with the times, and this measure is an example of that,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “Electric vehicles cause as much wear and tear on our roads as traditional vehicles, and their owners need to pay a fair share.”

 

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Using highway money for its intended purpose

May 2, 2019

The Pennsylvania auditor general created quite a stir recently when he unveiled an audit that said the Commonwealth had diverted more than $4.2 billion from the Motor License Fund (MLF) in the last six years to support State Police operations.

The MLF, as many PHIA followers know, was created to receive the revenue generated by fuel taxes and license and registration fees (and some fines) and, per the PA Constitution, be allocated strictly for highway purposes.

Many PHIA followers also have been aware that PA has been diverting revenue from the MLF for much longer than six years. While the annual diversions have been growing to support some three-quarters of the State Police budget, the total diverted amount now totals $9 billion since 2001.

Recently, as gasoline prices have again approached $3 per gallon, news reports have noted that Pennsylvania has the highest state gasoline taxes in the country, at about 58 cents per gallon.  Each penny of the gas tax produces about $65 million annually, so when the diverted amount exceeded $800 million in the last fiscal year, that meant that about 12 cents – more than 20 percent – of the tax was funding State Police operations instead of building and maintaining bridges and highways.

Following a study by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee two years ago, the governor and General Assembly have started to walk back the diverted amount by 4 percent each year, until it gets down to $500 million.

However, the highway builders have a better idea. Since the first of the year, the industry has begun to advocate for trimming $65 million per year from the diverted amount – the equivalent to a penny of the gas tax. Doing that for 12 years will take the diversion down to zero, and all of the revenue generated for the constitutionally protected MLF will be used for bridges and highways.

The industry’s reasoning is that finding $65 million in a $30-billion-plus state budget through cost-cutting and improved efficiencies ought to be achievable. After all, it’s less than 2 percent of the budget, and it would, once and for all, address our highway funding needs, and do so without raising taxes again.

“During the push for Act 89 of 2013, the people of Pennsylvania were promised safer, less congested roads and improved quality of life,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “It’s not unreasonable to expect that promise to be kept.”

 

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Southeast Partnership offers menu of funding solutions for impending ‘cliff’

April 9, 2019

The Southeast Partnership for Mobility, which consists of SEPTA, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and PennDOT, joined a growing number of entities this week in sounding an alarm over a rapidly approaching transportation funding “fiscal cliff.”

The partnership produced a report that focused on transportation needs in the southeast region. The group identified a variety of funding mechanisms that policymakers might consider to replace a $450 million annual subsidy that public transportation agencies receive from the Turnpike. That subsidy drops to $50 million in 2022, but it has already been halted by a lawsuit filed by independent truckers and a motorist association.

The subsidy arrangement, which began in 2007 after plans to toll I-80 failed, has caused the Turnpike’s debt to approach $12 billion. Turnpike tolls have increased annually for 11 years and will continue to increase for the next 30 years.

“SEPTA and other public transportation agencies are facing cuts in projects and services that could begin to affect the public as soon as this summer,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “While it’s good to get the conversation started, there’s not a lot of time to talk before the public will start feeling the pain.”

To view the menu of funding ideas, go to www.PaMobilityPartnerships.com.

 

 

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TAC report paints glum picture of transportation funding

March 7, 2019

Most readers of this publication and George Wolff’s Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition newsletter are aware of the transportation funding issues facing the Commonwealth.

Those issues include the lack of progress in achieving a federal highway funding solution, a lawsuit challenging the appropriateness of the Turnpike Commission’s subsidies to public transportation, the diversion of revenue from the Motor License Fund, and the declining revenue generated from fuel taxes and license and registration fees.

A recent report from the state’s Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) on transportation funding risks corroborates the challenges facing political leaders and policymakers, beginning as early as Pennsylvania’s new fiscal year on July 1.

The Turnpike has been unable to make the last three quarterly installments on the $450 million annual payment required by Act 44 of 2007. The matter is pending in federal court, and the uncertainty prevents the turnpike from securing the required bonds.

While $400 million of that annual payment will expire at the end of 2022, the lawsuit accelerates the date of reckoning. Couple that with the threat of repealing a measure that would allocate proceeds of vehicle sales taxes to public transportation, along with the other issues identified above, and the state could be facing a worst-case scenario that would remove $18.5 billion in transportation funding from the fiscal years of 2021-22 through 2029-30, according to the TAC study.

“Needless to say, the report paints a dire picture,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “And even though we may avoid the worst-case scenario, these issues will not ease without some tough decision-making on the part of our state and federal policymakers.”

To view a PowerPoint presentation on the TAC report’s findings, click here.