ROADS/BRIDGES: Pa., Wyo. look at ways to boost transportation funding

One state still cannot decide on a strategy, while another lays the groundwork for gas-tax increase

December 04, 2012

An endorsement is not an amendment. Pennsylvania is well aware of this fact, and Wyoming might become educated in the near future.

Not long ago, an advisory committee in Pennsylvania released a list of recommendations to help increase transportation funding in the state, and lawmakers have yet to act. On Dec. 4, Wyoming’s Joint Revenue Committee approved two bills that call for a 10-cent increase of the state gas tax and a $10 bump in motor vehicle registration fees. The measures now move on to the House Revenue Committee and the entire state legislature, and if passed could generate almost $90 million annually for road and bridgework.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead recommended a gas-tax increase on Nov. 30. An estimated $134.5 million a year is needed for the state to maintain its highway system.

“If we maintain the status quo, it’s a losing game for the state,” said Bill Schilling, executive director of the Wyoming Business Alliance. “It’s no secret . . . that the highway transportation corridors in this state are essentially a fundamental component of our state’s economic condition.”

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, state lawmakers are considering breaking up its transportation bill into one that serves just road and bridgework and one that would address mass transit. Gov. Tom Corbett is expected to lay out his funding plan when the state legislature returns to work in mid-January.

The idea of splitting the measure into two parts received a mixed reaction. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai favors such a move because “so many reforms have to be brought to mass transit that it needs to be disentangled.” The Senate Republicans are not as keen on the idea, but are nonetheless open to it.

Rep. Dan Frankel, however, has been vocal about his concern over addressing highways and mass transit separately. He said lawmakers from urban areas would not support the maneuver due to their strong ties to transit systems.