State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

PennDOT chief: "We're like Washington, D.C."

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 19, 2013 12:27 AM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf


An effort to advance a $2.3 billion plan to fund roads, bridges, mass transit, and more in Pennsylvania failed on the House floor Monday night.

The plan, offered as an amendment to another House bill, failed on a vote of 98-103. A majority agreed to reconsider the measure, and voted again. Yea votes dropped further to 89.

"I was saying a few weeks ago that I was crediting Speaker Smith and Frank Dermody for not leading us to the path of what Washington, DC was leading us to and we're not going to be like Washington, D.C.," said PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch, referring to House GOP Speaker Sam Smith and Democratic Minority Leader Frank Dermody.

"Tonight, unfortunately, we're like Washington D.C.," he said. "We couldn't get anything done."

What happened to the measure at the center of negotiations since June, and near the focus of the governor's speeches for the past several weeks? Legislative leaders and aides to Gov. Corbett said at the bill's peak support, it only needed one more vote.

But the amendment failed four votes shy of what it would ultimately need to pass. Schoch said that right before the recorded tally, the count of Republican members in favor of it dropped by three.

After House adjourned, House Speaker Sam Smith strode out of Gov. Corbett's office. "He said 'thanks for trying,'" Smith said. "He's disappointed - well, he can speak for himself."

Schoch and legislative leaders said they're not sure what will happen next. Just hours before floor debate began on Monday, business and labor groups joined Gov. Corbett on the Capitol Rotunda steps, urging lawmakers to pass a transportation funding bill.

Lawmakers that voted against the $2.3 billion amendment in the House included Republican and Democratic caucus leaders - Majority Leader Mike Turzai, GOP Whip Stan Saylor, Democratic Minority Leader Frank Dermody, and Democratic Whip Mike Hanna.

The House speaker blocked Democrats from offering their own $2.3 billion amendment that would raise the same amount of money without including changes to reduce some public works project wages. The House GOP Majority Leader also offered his own smaller, $1 billion transportation funding amendment for a vote, but withdrew it.

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