Wheatley co-authors transportation funding bill
State Reps. Dwight Evans, D-Phila., and Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, have unveiled compromise legislation designed to fast-track the transportation funding needed urgently in Pennsylvania.
“House Bill 1823 finds the middle ground between House and Senate proposals, advances commonsense portions of the governor’s plan and removes the troublesome aspects of prior plans that have derailed progress on transportation and infrastructure funding,” Rep. Evans said. “The bill is a fresh start using tried-and-true ingredients.”
“All responsible Republicans and Democrats agree on the need to address transportation funding,” Rep. Wheatley said. “By compromising, selecting the best ideas and discarding the unworkable, H.B. 1823 provides the workable framework to put Pennsylvania on the road to a 21st century transportation infrastructure.”
Highlights of the legislation include:
• Raising a projected $2.2 billion for transportation in three years, squarely in the middle of the stalled proposals;
• Devoting $400 million more annually to public transportation by fiscal year 2016-17; and
• Delivering $100 million for a new Multimodal Transportation Fund, as recommended by the governor.
Rep. Wheatley said H.B. 1823 takes the best ideas from both the House and Senate versions of S.B. 1, but eliminates items unrelated to transportation funding that put the bill in legal jeopardy because of the single-subject requirement for legislation.
“It also addresses the constitutional requirement that all revenue-raising bills originate in the House of Representatives,” Rep. Wheatley said. “The bill jumpstarts the deliberations on the overdue need to address our crumbling highways and bridges and wilting public transportation systems.”
Rep. Evans said the legislation would adopt the House Transportation Committee recipe for raising revenue through uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax by establishing the value of the average wholesale price of fuel.
“The bill acknowledges the need to boost funding for transportation funding,” Rep. Evans said. “However, it moderates the pressure on fuel prices while also guaranteeing an additional $1.3 billion a year in funding by setting a floor or minimum on the average wholesale price.”
Representatives Evans and Wheatley said H.B. 1823 would incrementally increase – to 7.6 percent – the funding transferred to the Public Transportation Trust Fund from sales tax revenues.
“Our measure also would shift all Pennsylvania Turnpike payments to transit but reduces the turnpike payment by $50 million to $400 million,” Rep. Wheatley said. “This would mean a $150 million increase for transit while simultaneously reducing the pressures on the turnpike.”
Rep. Evans said the funding proposal would provide $100 million for the Multimodal Transportation Fund as requested by the governor, which is similar to the language in both the House and Senate versions of S.B. 1.
“We remove the local matching requirement but keep the proposal very close to what has garnered bipartisan support so far,” Rep. Evans said. “This enables us to move forward on responsibly funding key items like aviation, freight and passenger rail ports, and waterways and bicycle and pedestrian pathways.”
Rep. Evans credited the governor for seeking to modernize the way Pennsylvania approaches transportation funding.
“The governor realizes that that simply compiling needed transportation projects is not a policy that serves the commonwealth responsibly,” Rep. Evans said. “The legislation creates and funds a balanced Intermodal Transportation Policy Commission to recommend funding priorities, as well as to increase cooperation and consolidation among local transportation organizations.”
Rep. Wheatley said he and Mr. Evans put in long hours crafting the compromise legislation so it addressed the myriad of issues, including enhancing participation among veteran, minority and women-owned businesses and developing plans to place individuals from groups with chronically high unemployment rates in transportation jobs.
“We have no illusions that this is the final product, and we expect amendments,” Rep. Evans said. “However, the legislation we present today is a clean, workable and logical framework to get a transportation-funding bill on the governor’s desk before January 1.”