A transportation funding commission established by Governor Tom Corbett recommended that Pennsylvania adopt a broad range of taxes, fees and cost saving measures to eliminate what PennDOT estimates is a $2.5 billion dollar funding deficit for roads, bridges and mass transit.
The Transportation Funding Advisory Commission submitted its final report to the governor on August 1. A PennDOT spokesman said most of the recommendations, particularly those calling for higher fees, would need legislative approval.
The biggest chunk of the revenue would come from removing a cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax, which is paid to the state by gasoline distributors. First enacted by the Legislature in 1981, the tax is capped at 19.2 cents per gallon. The Commission says that lifting the cap would raise $1.36 billion.
Other recommendations from the Commission include increasing fines for certain traffic offenses by $50; approval of implementing legislation authorizing public-private partnerships; legislation allowing tolling of Pennsylvania‟s interstates.
Tolling the interstates would require approval from both the General Assembly and federal highways (FHWA). A year ago, FHWA rejected the state‟s plan to place tolls on Interstate 80, which cuts through the Northern Tier. Many argued that placing tolls on one interstate, rather then on all, would be unfair to consumers and businesses in that region.
“There is no magic wand that can eliminate the challenges that lie ahead in building better roads and bridges and keeping our transportation system safe and efficient,” PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch wrote to the governor and state lawmakers in a letter introducing the report.
The report won the support of a group of labor and business interests, calling themselves „The Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition‟.
The commission‟s recommendations include substantial benefits for all of the coalition‟s member groups and their constituencies,” said George Wolff, Harrisburg lobbyist and coalition founder.
Wolff said that the recommendations would cost an average motorist only 70 cents per week in the first year, increasing to about $2.50 per week – less than the cost of a gallon of gas – by the fifth year. He pointed out that in addition to inflation-adjusting increases in license and registration fees, recalibrating the Oil Company Franchise Tax to reflect today‟s wholesale oil prices would enable the state to also collect revenue from those who do not live here, but who use the state‟s transportation assets.