Featured

Electric vehicle bill may be on tap

September 5, 2019

 

Members of the General Assembly will return from summer recess in the coming weeks. PHIA is hopeful that the House will quickly take up an electric vehicle bill, House Bill 1392, sponsored by Democratic House Transportation Chair Mike Carroll.

Rep. Mike Carroll

The measure would impose annual fees on all-electric vehicles. It was approved by the House Transportation Committee near the end of the spring legislative session and awaits a vote from the full House before advancing to the Senate.

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. It 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.

“The measure would have very minimal impact initially, because electric vehicles – especially EVs that are totally electric – do not yet have significant market share,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “But as emission standards become tighter, and technology continues to advance, they will gain in popularity.”

Volkswagen recently announced a major EV initiative and has several new models in development, to be rolled out as early as next year.

“We need to be ready and make sure public policy is in synch with technology and market changes,” Wagner said. “It’s important that everyone contributes their fair share to building and maintaining our bridges and highways.”

 

Featured

Registration Now Open for 2019 PHIA Annual Transportation Conference

August 21, 2019

Registration is now open for the 2019 PHIA Transportation Conference and Annual Meeting, which will be held on Tuesday, October 15, 2019 at the Hilton Harrisburg.  Click HERE for more information and to register!

 

 

Featured

Fuel-tax drop reflects need for funding solutions

July 19, 2019

John Finnerty, who covers the Statehouse for newspapers in Johnstown, Meadville, New Castle, Sharon and Sunbury, dug up an interesting story recently noting that Motor License Fund revenue fell $58 million short of projections in the recently ended fiscal year.

While the percentage of the shortfall is relatively small, it portends a growing threat to highway funding in Pennsylvania. As fuel efficiency continues to improve, and demand for alternative fuel vehicles grows, our reliance on a consumption tax presents challenges.

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, Rep. Mike Carroll, of Luzerne County, Democratic chair of the House Transportation Committee, has introduced a bill that would establish an annual fee for entirely electric vehicles. The bill advanced through the transportation panel with overwhelming support and awaits a full House vote and Senate consideration this fall.

While EVs are supposed to pay an alternative fuel tax to make up for the revenue lost by avoiding a gasoline or diesel tax, the procedure is cumbersome, and many EV owners are probably not even aware of the requirement. The Carroll bill would eliminate the alternative fuel tax and replace it with the annual fee.

There are other issues that need to be resolved, such as how to make sure that hybrid owners, who pay some fuel taxes, pay their fair share for road maintenance and repair. Perhaps they will be asked to pay a smaller fee than EV owners.

Representative Carroll believes the ultimate answer will be a mileage-based fee, which would most closely align the cost of highway maintenance with the responsibility for wear and tear.

To read Finnerty’s entire article, click here.

 

Featured

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.”

 

Featured, News

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.