How bad is the crisis of leadership on transportation funding? So bad that we’re now seeing business groups calling for a tax increase. Seriously, how much more political cover does Tom Corbett need to endorse his own panel’s recommendations? Here’s another thing I don’t get: why shouldn’t this be part of the regular budget session? Isn’t it going to be easier to pass the inevitable gas tax increase as part of a must-pass bill than as a standalone bill?
Lehigh Valley business leaders called on the Corbett administration Wednesday to come up with a long-term solution to the state’s transportation funding woes – even if that means they’ll have to pay more at the DMV and at the pump to do it.
State government needs to “own up to the responsibility for taking care of our transportation infrastructure,” said Chad Heimbecker, of Swift Water Solutions in Allentown, and one of more than 100 local businesspeople who attended the lunchtime forum put on by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Heimbecker and others had a sympathetic ear in House Transportation Chairman Rick Geist, R-Blair, and Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch, who keynoted the session at the Northampton Country Club.
The Republican administration is more than aware of the problem, said Schoch, who’s been meeting with legislative leaders to try to reach an agreement on the timeline for acting on legislation that would help pay for $2.5 billion in road and bridge repairs and improvements to mass-transit and other public infrastructure.
Corbett has been sharply criticized for failing to act on the recommendations of his own Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, which returned a report last August, recommending, among other things, boosting motor vehicle registration and license renewal fees.
The panel also recommended uncapping the state’s wholesale gasoline tax, which would raise about $1.4 billion, though it’s likely that some or all of that increase could be passed along at the pump. Bills that would implement the report’s recommendations are pending in the state House and Senate.
Corbett has been publicly reluctant about raising fees and uncapping the tax during a slow economy. But that hasn’t kept business leaders from arguing that the state’s economic competitiveness depends on a well-maintained network of roads and bridges to get goods to market. Pennsylvania owns about 25,000 bridges with an average of about 50 years old.