State House Sound Bites

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

Transportation bill passes Senate, goes back to House

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Nov 20, 2013 5:34 PM
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A $2.3 billion transportation infrastructure funding plan is headed back to the state House after it passes the state Senate a bipartisan vote of 43-7. Lawmakers are expected to bring it up for concurrence on Thursday afternoon. If the measure passes, it will go to the governor's desk.

The harshest objections to the measure during Senate debate was the part of the deal included to get more House Republicans on board. The change to the state's prevailing wage law will effectively reduce pay to laborers on smaller, local transportation public works projects. And some GOP members withheld support because of their concerns about raising gas taxes and motorist fees.

Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) acknowledged the bipartisan nature of the dissatisfaction. Such is compromise, he said.

"Governing is getting what we can get passed," Corman said. "All four caucuses were at the table, all four caucuses had priorities, some of them were less than mine, but nevertheless, this is what gets the votes."

Some defended the prevailing wage change. Sen. John Gordner (R-Northumberland) said it's a moderate change to a decades-old law inflating construction costs in local governments in his own district.

"They believe very strongly that this will allow them, as small municipalities, to do more transportation projects for their constituents in their district," Gordner said.

Senate Democrats were blocked from offering their own amendments to the bill on the floor Wednesday afternoon. One was intended to strip the prevailing wage change from the proposal.

Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) said the plan includes a fund that will be used a lot like "walking around money," or WAMs, which have been disparaged by Governor Corbett as an underhanded way of stewarding tax dollars.

"This legislation has $50 million of WAMs," Ferlo said. "It has $50 million of discretionary spending. Now, I hope and pray that these WAMs are going to be utilized in the way that the administration says."

Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), the Republican Transportation Committee chairman, shot back that the money was added during bipartisan negotiations, and must be used for "specific" transportation-related purposes.


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