The ranking Republican on the House Transportation Committee says he believes the prospects are good of reaching agreement on legislation by the time the session adjourns.
"I think we're 70 percent toward getting a bill to the governor's desk," said Rep. Rick Geist (R., Blair). "This is something that is really nonpartisan."
Geist said $3.5 billion is needed to fix 5,000 deficient bridges and 7,000 miles of crumbling roadways, as well as help transit systems with capital projects such as bridge and rail-line repair.
During numerous public appearances this summer, Rendell has been pushing a tax on oil-company profits, saying corporations can afford to chip in more to help Pennsylvania's transportation infrastructure.
Written into the bill, he said, would be a mandate that companies not pass on the increase to motorists, language that some Republicans contend would be unconstitutional.
Even if it was determined to be constitutional, it would lead to litigation that could take years to resolve and mean no revenue would be coming in, said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware).
And, many legislators say, there is little appetite for tax increases just before an election when the full House and half the Senate face voters.
In addition, the legislature has other controversial issues on its plate, namely approving the agreed-upon tax on gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale by Oct. 1.
"Whatever we do [on transportation] will be a major policy decision, so there is some sentiment to allow the next governor a chance to weigh in," Arneson said. "Nobody has made the case that the House is ready to raise taxes or fees a month before election."
A spokesman for House Majority Leader Todd Eachus (D., Luzerne) said there was an "urgent need" for a solution to the transportation-funding shortage, but he did not specify what he thought should be done.
"We are committed to working with our colleagues in both parties in the House and Senate to craft a plan that is responsible and sustainable," Brett Marcy said Friday.
Among the other proposals: increasing the state's 31-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax by four cents and raising fees for driver's licenses (now $28 for four years) and vehicle registrations (now $36 a year).
The gasoline tax has not been increased since 1997, and the increase would only reflect the rate of inflation since then, Rendell said.
The session Monday caps months of advocacy by Rendell to jump-start efforts to resolve transportation-funding issues. Earlier this month he took a four-day, cross-state tour to highlight some of the bridges and roadways that need repair.
At a news conference Thursday, Rendell released results of a recent poll of 504 Pennsylvanians that show a majority would be willing to pay a little extra for safer roads and bridges and better transit systems.
The poll, paid for from his campaign account and conducted by Global Strategy Group & the Word Doctors, surveyed 504 likely voters between Aug. 16 and Aug. 18; it had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or email@example.com.