Thursday, July 10, 2014

Transportation bill is coming due

June 10. 2013 10:40PM
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SOMEONE WHO ignores his car’s regular maintenance schedule is only putting off the inevitable.

The mechanic’s bill eventually is going to come due, and it will probably be much higher than if the driver had simply changed the oil, filters and belts when they were supposed to.

That’s where Pennsylvania is right now with its transportation infrastructure.

The Legislature has deferred transportation maintenance for years, and now 20 percent of the state-maintained bridges and highways are in need of repair.

The good news is lawmakers are finally acknowledging it’s time to address the situation.

“Driving around a pothole is one thing,” said Sen. Pat Vance, a Cumberland County Republican who also represents part of York County. “I don’t want to be part of a bridge collapse or anything.”

The bad news is the bill is finally coming due — and it’s a whopper.

Vance and her Senate colleagues overwhelmingly approved a $2.5 billion boost Wednesday to the $5.3 billion the state Department of Transportation currently spends on highways, bridges and transit systems.

It’s a staggering amount — even more than the $1.8 billion plan Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled earlier this year — but that’s what happens when we delay the inevitable.

To cover the costs, the bill calls for potentially painful tax and fee increases.

For instance, it would increase the wholesale gas tax by 28.5 cents a gallon, which would give Pennsylvania among the nation’s highest fuel tax rates.

The bill also would impose a $100 surcharge on traffic fines and raise fines for the catch-all “failure to obey traffic control device” violation from $25 to a sliding scale of $100 to $300.

Senate Bill 1 now heads to the House, where some members are already skeptical of the high cost and fee increases.

State Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, said he expects any House version will include changes.

“The $100 surcharge on moving violations is probably something that will not remain in the bill,” he said. “It’s fine to say, ‘If you don’t break the law you don’t have to pay the bill,’ but we’re hearing people who can’t afford it now.”

If that’s the case, then those people really need to slow down and pay better attention behind the wheel. The fact is they can avoid those fines if they choose to — unlike the wholesale gas tax increase, which will almost surely be passed down, at least in part, to every driver.

Hopefully, these won’t be deal-breakers in the House, not when the Legislature is so close to addressing this public safety hazard.

York Daily Record

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