House sends $2.3B transit bill to Corbett

Posted: November 23, 2013

HARRISBURG - More than $2 billion will soon begin to flow into road and bridge repair and mass-transit improvements after the state House gave final approval Thursday to the long-awaited transportation bill.

The House sent the bill - the first comprehensive transportation-funding legislation in 15 years - to Gov. Corbett late in the day with a 113-85 bipartisan vote.

With it, Corbett notched a major legislative victory. He said it represented a "new era in resurgent and reenergized Pennsylvania."

"This bold transportation plan demonstrates that our elected officials are serious about keeping our residents safe and our economy strong," he said.

Corbett, speaking at an early evening news conference surrounded by lawmakers from both parties and representatives of business and labor interests, celebrated a bipartisan achievement that he said should be a model for the nation.

"We forged a compromise for a transportation solution for the people and the good of the commonwealth," said Corbett, who is expected to sign the bill early next week.

To pay for the $2.3 billion plan over five years, the decades-old cap on the oil-franchise tax will be lifted and motor vehicle license fees hiked, and higher fines will be imposed on driving infractions.

While estimates based on today's prices indicate that the per-gallon cost of gasoline will rise by as much as 28 cents, phased in over five years, Corbett said it was too early to say what the impact would be.

"Will [gas companies] pass some of that along? Yes," said Corbett. "But nobody can say how much."

Corbett, who is running for reelection in 2014, deflected questions about whether the tax and fee increases mean that he broke his 2010 campaign promise not to raise taxes.

"I did not campaign on transportation. What I realized when I came into office was how bad it was," he said, adding: "You either have to take action or get out of office."

The final bill won the support of nearly all Philadelphia Democrats - Rep. John Sabatina was the only one to oppose it - and most Republicans from the Philadelphia suburbs.

Antitax lawmakers objected to the gas-tax increase, and pro-union Democrats opposed the prevailing-wage regulations that will lower the wages of workers on transportation projects costing less than $100,000.

The bill allocates $1.65 billion to repair thousands of bridges and thousands of miles of roads, sends nearly $500 million to transit, and sets aside money for airports, ports, railways, and walking and cycling routes.

The bill also contains a provision allowing speed limits to be raised from 65 to 70 m.p.h. on certain highways, which will be determined after a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation study.


aworden@phillynews.com

717-783-2584 @inkyamy

www.inquirer.com/phillydawg

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