State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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$2.3 billion transportation plan goes to governor

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 21, 2013 10:45 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

The House Rules Committee sends the transportation bill to the House floor for a concurrence vote.

A plan to raise $2.3 billion to fix and maintain Pennsylvania's ailing transportation infrastructure has passed a final vote in the state House, and now heads to the governor's desk. Gov. Corbett's spokesman says he'll likely sign it early next week.

The lion's share of the money would come from uncapping a tax and increasing motorist fees. Corbett campaigned for office on a "no new tax" platform, but this year he made transportation funding a central piece of his legislative agenda, and pushed hard for its passage.

Shortly after the House passed the plan, by a vote of 113 to 85, Corbett defended his support of the move to raise motorist fees and uncap a tax paid by gas distributors.

"The motoring public, whether it's trucks, cars, or buses coming through Pennsylvania, were all exposed to a decaying infrastructure which needs to be repaired," Corbett said. "I think we took a very logical position."

The plan has a little something loathed by members of both parties. For Republicans, it's the possibility the uncapped wholesale gas tax could lead to higher gas prices. For Democrats, it's a change to allow local, smaller public works projects pay lower wages to labor.

Sen. Seth Grove (R-York), who switched his vote earlier this week to support the funding bill, said lifting the cap on the wholesale gas tax doesn't mean a proportionate increase to the price of gas at the pump.

"It's crude oil that drives the price," Grove said. "We're not providing a tax directly on the consumer. The tax is going to be set by the market price."

Corbett said despite cries to the contrary, it's impossible to know how much more the lifted cap (over a five-year period) will make gas distributors increase the price of gas at the pump.

"Will they pass some of that along? Yes. There is nobody in this room, there is nobody in this building, and there's nobody in the state that can say how much is going to go to the pump," said Corbett, "because it's part of the overall cost of doing business."

The plan also allows the speed limit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and other freeways to increase from 65 to 70 miles per hour - something added relatively late in negotiations.

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