‘New’ funding gap stands at about $4.5 billion annually

October 3, 2013

After the transportation funding bill stalled in the House earlier this summer, there was considerable discussion over what the “right” amount of funding would be. Sen. John Rafferty introduced Senate Bill 1, which would have raised $2.5 billion in additional revenue, but by the time the Senate voted 45 to 5 to support the bill, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that the House would reduce it to something “more acceptable.”

Once the House stripped a half-billion dollars from the original measure, mostly in public transportation funds, there was little to no interest among Democrats in the House or Senate, many of whom come from more urban areas where the larger public transportation systems are. For that matter, Senate Republicans, including Senator Rafferty, said the House bill, as amended, fell short of a reasonable solution, and the measure did not go to the House floor.

But what is the real funding gap today? In 2010, the state Transportation Advisory Committee calculated it at $3.5 billion annually, a figure on which there was little or no disagreement. The TAC also projected that the gap was growing by nearly $1 million per day – about $880,000, to be precise.

So, today – three years later – Pennsylvania has added nearly a billion dollars to the annual funding gap, for a total of $4.5 billion. Given that, Senator Rafferty’s proposal would have made up a little more than half the current gap, while the House-amended measure would have made up less than half.

“The problem with the House version was that it was no longer a comprehensive solution,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner. “It would have very slowly removed the cap from the Oil Company Franchise Tax and done little or nothing for the other modes of transportation – public transportation, air and seaports and bicycles and pedestrians. All modes are important for the mobility of materials, goods and people across the Commonwealth.

“Moreover, as a practical matter, it simply wasn’t enough to muster a majority of House members, do it never came to a floor vote. As the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition counted support, Senator Rafferty’s proposal would have drawn a majority in the House, including a majority of the Republican caucus.

“We’ll see what happens in the fall legislative session, but it’s hard to imagine a so-called right number that can’t make up at least half of the gap and attract enough support to pass.”


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