Pennsylvania House nears vote on transportation funding

Pa. Senate passed $2.5B package

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HARRISBURG -- A $2.5 billion annual transportation funding package already passed by the state Senate soon could get a vote in the House, Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said Monday, despite his belief the bill represents a burdensome tax.

"Nobody's asking for it among everyday people, to increase their gas tax," he said.

"Nobody's asking for fees, fines and surcharges to be increased. But I know that the governor wants it. He would like to see a significant transportation funding bill passed. ... I think there's reticence in the House."

Mr. Turzai was speaking at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon Monday afternoon, and in discussing his caucus's top priorities for the fall session, he highlighted pension-system changes, property tax reform and changes to cyber charter schools in light of the recent indictment of the founder of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School.

Until a question from the audience, Mr. Turzai did not mention the transportation funding package, which has been one of Gov. Tom Corbett's top legislative priorities and was passed by the Senate in June by a wide margin.

A host of business and labor groups have also been pushing for the bill, which would raise revenues by removing a cap on a tax paid by gasoline suppliers, an increase that would likely be passed on to consumers at the pump.

Monday was the first day legislators returned to Harrisburg after their summer recess; House Republicans will have a caucus meeting this week on transportation funding, Mr. Turzai said.

"[Transportation funding] is certainly not something that we want to hold up other items," he said, referring to some legislators linking the passage of a transportation bill with a state liquor store privatization bill, a House Republican priority.

Bill Patton, a spokesman for House Democrats said, "There needs to be a real discussion between Democrats, Republicans and the governor's office [on transportation]. That has yet to happen."

It's not clear when a vote on the matter could come. Steve Miskin, a spokesman for Mr. Turzai later said it would be probably within the next several weeks, though he didn't commit to a specific timeline.

"If people think that $2.5 [billion] annually is the right investment, they should be able to stand up and stand behind it," Mr. Turzai said.

state - Transportation

Kate Giammarise: kgiammarise@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.


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