Wolf rejects diverting more transportation funds

November 10, 2017

Transportation advocates appear to have received great news this week as a spokesman for Governor Wolf said the governor does not intend to tap into transportation money to close a $300 million budget gap.

In recognition of a legislative study concluding that the state had been diverting $222 million more than it should from the Motor License Fund to support State Police operations, the governor and General Assembly had trimmed last year’s $802 million diversion by about $23 million and apparently will continue to scale the diverted amount back.

However, House Republicans then suggested diverting some $400 million from the Multimodal Transportation and Public Transportation Trust funds to plug the budget gap, later reducing that to $100 million before stripping out specific sources and leaving it up to the governor’s discretion.

The governor’s spokesman, J.J. Abbott, said the following to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via email:

“Gov. Wolf will not raid any funds related to public transit as proposed by the House Republicans. Governor Wolf understands that public transit and other infrastructure are vital parts of Pennsylvania’s economy and he’s committed to continuing to invest more — not less — in these programs.”


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PA revenue package approved, but questions remain

October 26, 2017

Nearly four months beyond the beginning of the fiscal year, the General Assembly has approved revenue bills that – at least in theory – will balance the budget of nearly $32 billion that was approved earlier this year.

Assuming Governor Wolf approves the measures, the revenue will result from a significant expansion of gambling – casino-style gambling in truck stops, airports, online, and 10 new casino locations around the state, each with hundreds of slot machines and possibly table games – projected to raise $200 million per year.

Another $1.5 billion will be borrowed and repaid over 20 years, and $500 million is to come from “off-budget” funds at the governor’s discretion. Previously, House Republicans proposed siphoning $50 million each from multimodal transportation and public transportation funds, but the specific sources were stripped from the final version.

It is not clear what the governor will do or when he will act. Earlier measures are diverting almost $740 million from the Motor License Fund this fiscal year. PHIA will provide updates as decisions are made.



Senator John Rafferty to Speak at Dec. 12 PHIA Breakfast

October 4, 2017


The Pennsylvania Highway Information Association (PHIA) will host another policy briefing breakfast on December 12, 2017, featuring Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty.

Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr. represents the residents of Pennsylvania’s 44th Senatorial District, which includes parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties. He was re-elected for a fourth term in the Senate in November of 2014. A former state deputy attorney general, the Montgomery County native has an extensive background in public service and local government. Rafferty’s top legislative priorities include improving Pennsylvania’s transportation system, lowering the property tax burden, protecting our environment, reducing health care costs, providing quality care for senior citizens, fighting drunk driving and prescription drug abuse and ensuring that our police and firefighters have the resources and tools they need to do their jobs.

Senator Rafferty serves as Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. In that capacity, he spearheaded passage of Pennsylvania’s Transportation Funding Plan, Act 89 of 2013, to increase Pennsylvania’s annual transportation investment by $2.3 billion. The funding is being used to repair unsafe roads and aging bridges, undertake construction projects in congested areas and improve ports, rail lines and mass transit systems.

Don’t miss your opportunity to join us on December 12 to hear from one of Pennsylvania’s distinguished policy leaders!

For more information and to register for the event, click HERE.


Sponsorship opportunities available!

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Committee concludes PA should restore more than $220 million for highway work

March 24, 2017

The Pennsylvania Legislative Budget & Finance Committee has released the long-awaited report determining the appropriate and justifiable amount of Motor License Fund revenue that can be used to fund State Police operations.

PAWIREFRAMEPOLICEUsing the 2015-16 fiscal year as a benchmark, the report said the appropriate amount that year would have been $532.8 million, not the $755 million that was actually diverted. In the current fiscal year, $802 million was diverted, but Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget for next year would reduce that amount by $63 million.

Legislation passed last year mandates that the diverted amount be reduced in each of the next 10 years until it reaches the appropriate level. It is important to note that the Commonwealth has the ability to revise that mandate by enacting new legislation.

At issue was whether the Commonwealth had been diverting more than permitted by the Pennsylvania Constitution, which requires that revenue from fuel taxes and license and registration fees be used strictly for highway purposes. The report concluded that more than $220 million that is being diverted should not be, enough to resurface more than 1,100 lane miles of roadway, or to design, replace and maintain 138 bridges for the next 25 years.

The $532.8 figure results from the committee’s conclusion that State Police expend 47 percent of the agency’s resources for activities related to highway safety.

While the report answers an important question, the method by which the Commonwealth would restore the Motor License Fund resources to the proper level remains unresolved. Governor Wolf has proposed collecting a fee of $25 per resident from municipalities that rely on full-time State Police coverage rather than a local or regional police force, and several legislators also have offered proposals.

To view the full report, click HERE.  To view the report highlights, click HERE.


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Driverless technology advances in Pennsylvania

December 14, 2016

Autonomous self-driving driverless vehicle with radar on the roadWhile engineers and auto manufacturers continue to work on driverless technology, Pennsylvania is beginning work on the regulations that will guide this fledgling industry.

PennDOT assembled an Autonomous Vehicles Testing Policy Task Force to draft recommendations on the rules for driverless cars. The goal was to combine the state’s focus on innovation with the public’s need for safety.

Combining input from organizations including the Federal Highway Administration, AAA, Carnegie Mellon University, General Motors, Uber, the University of Pennsylvania, SAE and the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, the task force produced a report containing the following recommendations:

  • Testers of Highly Automated Vehicles (HAVs) must submit testing proposals to PennDOT and enter contracts attesting that the vehicles meet all federal and state safety standards and meet the policies adopted by PennDOT.
  • PennDOT must be notified prior to any HAV being used without an operator in fully self-driving mode.
  • PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission may temporarily restrict HAVs from certain routes. Otherwise, HAVs may be tested on any road in the state. Municipalities can also ask PennDOT to temporarily restrict HAVs on local routes.
  • Platooning, or electronically joining two or more vehicles controlled by a lead vehicle, also was addressed. Platooning of HAVs will be limited to two commercial or three passenger vehicles. PennDOT can approve additional vehicles in platoons after seeing a safety demonstration.
  • The HAVs must be able to record data that can be used to investigate crashes involving the HAVs. PennDOT will have access to the data.
  • Testers must certify that cybersecurity protections are in place for the HAVs.
  • PennDOT will collect data on total HAV miles traveled, total hours of operation, and size of HAV fleets. PennDOT may also ask for other information such as counties where HAVs are being tested and percentage of testing done on limited access highways.

“The prospect of driverless cars on our highways is an exciting prospect, but one that should be approached with the utmost focus on safety,” PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner said. “The report produced by this task force is a positive step toward reasonable regulation.”


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