Upcoming elections not stopping Pa. governor from pushing state legislators to act

Transportation funding strategy will most likely involve a raise in the state gas tax and/or fees; some do not think anything will be approved until a new governor takes over

August 20, 2010

Despite what effect it may have at November polling stations across the state, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is determined to find a funding solution for transportation infrastructure—and it will most likely involve an increase in fees and taxes.

Rendell will unveil his solution on Aug. 23 to state legislators, who will eventually have to approve any measure involving an increase in taxes or fees. That decision may not come before the Nov. 2 elections.

State Rep. Rick Geist is optimistic that something will be done before voters make their decisions.

“I think a consensus plan can be put together,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I don’t think it will become political. The state [transportation] is physically sick and it’s our responsibility to fix it.”

The state gas tax already sits at 31 cents a gallon. However, once the Federal Highway Administration rejected Pennsylvania’s request to toll I-80 a second time Rendell was staring down a massive annual shortage in transportation funding.

At a news conference on Aug. 19, the governor released results of a poll involving 600 Pennsylvanians, which showed a majority would be willing to pay more in order to have safe and reliable roads, bridges and transit.

To pass an increase, the Democratic-controlled House would have to receive support from most of its 104 Democrats to reach the minimum 102 votes needed. The measure then would move to the state Senate.

Other state legislators, however, aren’t as optimistic as Geist of anything moving through at the state level prior to Election Day. Republicans seem to favor inactivity until a new governor takes over in January 2011.

“Nothing we’ve seen to date makes me think the House will pass such a [transportation funding] plan this year,” Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson told the Post-Gazette, “but maybe [Aug. 23] will give us more insight.”