On transportation funds, Corbett tells lawmakers: 'Get this done'

Posted: October 25, 2013

HARRISBURG - Stop playing politics and pass a transportation funding bill.

That was Gov. Corbett's message to the legislature Wednesday, as another week went by and lawmakers left without a deal to provide billions of dollars in new funding for roads, bridges, and mass transit in Pennsylvania.

Speaking after a bill signing in the Capitol, the Republican governor appealed to the GOP-controlled legislature to continue negotiations on a transportation funding bill, and deliver a final product to him before the end of year.

"This is not a partisan issue," Corbett said, banging his hand on the lectern to the beat of each word. "I don't see Democrat or Republican written on the roads or bridges; I don't see it on the transit system. And I think that point needs to be made."

He continued: "Are there Republicans who don't support this? Yes. Are there Democrats who don't support this? Yes. . . . But if we truly care about the people of Pennsylvania, I strongly urge the legislature in the next two weeks to get this done."

Corbett did not specify which side he thought was playing politics. But his frustration at the lack of action on this issue, which is among his priorities this year, was evident. Corbett, who is up for reelection next year as he struggles with sagging poll numbers, would benefit from a headline-grabbing legislative win.

And if there was any doubt he is aware of that dynamic, Corbett put it to rest Wednesday: "I see some people thinking that if we don't pass a bill, it hurts me. It doesn't hurt me. It hurts the people of Pennsylvania. And I can't believe somebody would do that - put politics in front of the good of public safety."

Politics aside, there are still deep policy divisions among Republicans and Democrats on a transportation funding plan. As it stands, the two sides are discussing a measure that would increase transportation spending by more than $2 billion, with roughly $450 million of that dedicated to mass transit.

House Republicans have insisted that any deal on transportation include changes to Pennsylvania's prevailing wage laws for transportation projects. Those laws require contractors on state-funded construction projects costing more than $25,000 to pay specific wages for various jobs. The wages are set by the state Department of Labor and Industry and are generally tied to those in the area's organized labor contracts.

Republicans want to raise the monetary threshold from $25,000 to more than $100,000; they also want to exempt smaller road maintenance projects, such as minor resurfacing, from falling under prevailing wage.

Democrats have opposed such changes, and the issue is caught in a legislative logjam.

The legislature is now on break until mid-November. All sides have said they will continue talks over that time, and hope to have an agreement by the time they return.


acouloumbis@phillynews.com

717-787-5934

@AngelasInk

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