Governor touts private funding of transportation

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EASTON, Pa. -- Days before he is to lay out a transportation funding plan, Gov. Tom Corbett on Thursday held up a new roadway interchange here as a model of paying for infrastructure with private investment.

The governor told an audience of local officials and businesspeople that the private sector knows its infrastructure needs and -- as evidenced by the $40 million project, mostly backed by business, to connect a planned commercial park with a major road -- will foot the bill.

"This is primarily being built by the private sector," he told reporters later. "That allows the public sector dollars to be stretched to many other projects, because we only have so many dollars."

But Mr. Corbett, a Republican, volunteered that he would not reveal until his budget address on Feb. 5 how he would pay for the state's network of transportation infrastructure.

"I'm not going to tip it off," he told the audience. "I don't scoop myself."

The governor intends to call for raising nearly all of a proposed $1.9 billion in new funding by lifting a cap on a tax on gasoline wholesalers, according to Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, who was briefed on the proposal. An advisory commission to the governor on transportation funding had proposed also raising vehicle registration and driver's license renewal fees.

Speaking with reporters after the event, Mr. Corbett declined to confirm any details of his proposal.

"You're going to hear next week," he said. "But what I will confirm is that private investment in transportation is good. This is a prime example of the business community partnering with government to build an interchange that is going to take an area that was farming and was no longer being farmed and turning it into a location for businesses."

Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, has said he favors deciding transportation funding by April or May, before the budget and in time for the warm-weather construction season. Mr. Corbett said he would like to settle the issue -- along with pension reform, the state budget and his plan, announced Wednesday, to privatize state liquor sales -- as soon as possible, but he declined to set a timeline.

"I prefer to get things done as quickly as possible, but I don't know what's realistic in this atmosphere," he said.

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Harrisburg correspondent Karen Langley: klangley@post-gazette.com


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