Last week the Federal Highway Administration made the wise decision to reject Pennsylvania's proposal to toll Interstate 80, as authorized by Act 44 of 2007, which increased funding for transportation by almost $1 billion per year.When Act 44 was signed into law, there was no definite funding mechanism in place, and everything hinged on the federal government's approval of the I-80 plan, which many legislators saw as unlikely.
I voted against the ill-fated proposal when it came before the House last year, not only because of the uncertain funding, but also because it prioritized the want list of Philadelphia over the needs of the rest of Pennsylvania.
In my personal life, I have always tried to live within my means and not spend money that I do not have. Unfortunately, supporters of this plan either do not prescribe to this same philosophy or do not find it necessary to run state government in that way. Now, we are left scrambling for a new funding stream to finance road and bridge projects, as well as mass transit.
The governor is pushing a 75-year lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to raise revenue for roads and bridges. Even leaders in his own party have spoken out against this plan. Democrat leaders in the House released a statement in March stating "leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike would result in skyrocketing toll rates and would not deliver funding to repair state roads and bridges as efficiently as maintaining the current operation or issuing state-backed bonds against the value of the turn-pike."
Our roads and bridges are sorely in need of maintenance and repair, and I believe that there are areas of the state budget that could be cut to make up for at least some of the funding needed to sustain our highway infrastructure. However, curtailing spending on programs does not seem to be a priority for this administration, which is always trying to look for new revenue streams, a.k.a. new taxes on the public.
More than a year after Act 44 was signed is still into law, Pennsylvania still is left without a long-term solution for transportation funding. It is my hope that when all the clever revenue enhancement schemes prove ineffective, the governor and Democrat leadership will turn to good, old fashioned budget cutting to do the job of funding our vital highway system.
Bryan Cutler represents the 100th District. His e-mail address is email@example.com