Legislation that establishes guidelines for public-private partnerships, P3s, cleared the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill, SB 344, was the first moved by the Committee in the new 2011-12 legislation session, and observers predict quick action in full Senate and House.

“Both chambers and both parties were very close to agreeing on P3 legislation before the end of the last session,” said one House staffer who worked on last year’s bill. “This bill is very similar.”

The bill would establish guidelines for private corporations to enter agreements with public agencies for construction, transportation and other infrastructure projects.

“We decided to leave nothing off the table,” said John Gentzel, spokesman for the Senate Transportation Committee. “If it makes cost effective sense to enter into a P3, then it’s covered under the bill.”

State officials hope that P3s can relieve some of the budgetary pressures facing state agencies, particularly PennDOT. A report released last year by the State Transportation Advisory Committee estimated that Pennsylvania faces a yearly $3.5 billion shortfall to pay for roads, bridges and mass transit.

Chairman of the Senate Committee John Rafferty, R-Montgomery said the legislation was crafted with stakeholders, including PennDot involved. He called the work on the bill a bipartisan effort.

The Committee provided the following analysis of the bill:

  • Provide for Public-Private Partnerships in order to allow the private sector to join with the Commonwealth and other units of government in providing funding to address any transportation needs;
  • Establish an independent board consisting of eight members – including a representative from the Governor’s office, the Secretary of Transportation, the Budget Secretary, the PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Planning, as well as four legislative appointees (one appointed by each caucus) – to review proposals and to approve or deny them;
  • After deducting costs related to administration of the board, any remaining funds paid to the Commonwealth by a private sector partner would only be used for transportation funding and would be distributed by the board.