Pa. House approves $700 million transportation bill

Posted: June 27, 2007

HARRISBURG - After exhaustive debate over two days, the state House today passed a $700 million transportation funding package in less time than it takes a red light to turn green.

Without any discussion, the Democratic-controlled House passed the measure, 105-96, mostly along party lines. It will now move to the Senate, controlled by Republicans, where it could face a bumpier road.

The measure would raise the money primarily through publicly financed bonds and tolls on Interstate 80 across the northern part of the state, while permitting local governments to impose new taxes, including an earned-income tax and levies on hotel stays and car rentals.

The House Democrats' plan emerged last week as Gov. Rendell announced that he would drop his original transportation proposal: to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private company and impose a tax on oil company profits.

The governor had sought $1.7 billion in new transportation funding, but earlier this week said he could settle for $1 billion if that amount was available in the coming fiscal year.

Under the House bill, about $450 would go toward highway projects, the remaining $250 million to mass-transit agencies.

Soon after the vote, Appropriations Committee Chairman Dwight Evans called the package "a starting point." He said he hoped that it would compel a serious debate on the issue in the Senate, and that the funding package would eventually rise to the level Rendell is seeking.

"I look at this as the floor and we have to go up," said Evans (D., Phila.).

Although the transportation package is far short of the governor's goal, his administration applauded the work of the House, while stressing that he remains committed to his call for at least $1 billion.

"We commend the House - for taking an important step toward solving Pennsylvania's long-standing transportation crisis," said Chuck Ardo, a Rendell spokesman. "It is critical that we find a solution to the pressing needs of our bridges, roads and public transit systems as soon as possible."

Contact staff writer Mario F. Cattabiani at 717-787-5990 or

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