Gov. Tom Corbett signaled today that a new transportation bill is not a top priority for his administration this year, and questioned the effect of new fees on the state's brittle economy.
In remarks after a speech to the national Waterways Symposium Downtown, Mr. Corbett said he would "take a look" at any transportation bills proposed this year, but they would battle for attention with measures on school vouchers and Marcellus Shale regulations. He said transportation fixes might have to take a back seat, especially because the Legislature's current session is only half finished.
"I'll make this observation: This General Assembly doesn't end until November 2012. I don't have a deadline in my mind of this year," he told reporters.
The governor's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission delivered its report on paying for statewide road, bridge and public transit needs on Aug. 1, with calls for higher registration and license fees and lifting a cap on the wholesale gasoline tax.
Bipartisan pressure has been rising to move on the recommendations, and the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, this week announced intentions to introduce the transportation funding proposals without the governor's go-ahead.
The governor has said little about the recommendations other than expressing his reservations about the increased fees. He repeated those worries today, while referring to the report Thursday by the state's Bureau of Labor and Industry that state unemployment ticked up in September from 8.2 to 8.3 percent.
"I'm pausing [in moving for new transportation fees], because the economy is very difficult right now. We see unemployment continue to tick up, and I'm trying to make the determination of whether this is the right time to do something like that," Mr. Corbett said.
Tim McNulty: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1581.