Pennsylvania hasn't been investing enough in transportation for a long time. Republican Tom Corbett said as much when he began his term as governor in 2011 and he said it again last Wednesday, after a vote on funding was held off for at least another three weeks.
So why are so many members of his own party resisting the best hope the state has to come up with more money for roads, bridges and mass transit? Because they'd rather try to punish unions and skilled laborers than see potholes getting patched, bridge decks being replaced and transit riders reaching their destinations on time.
A $2.5 billion annual transportation funding package passed the state Senate in June and, earlier this month it looked as if a similar measure would soon reach the House floor. The participation of two leaders who weren't involved in the unsuccessful House negotiations in June -- Speaker Sam Smith, a Republican from Punxsutawney, and Democratic leader Frank Dermody of Oakmont -- was seen as a sign of hope, despite stubborn opposition from Republican leader Mike Turzai of Bradford Woods.
Legislators from both sides of the political aisle had daily discussions for two weeks on a bill that would remove a cap on a tax paid by gasoline suppliers and increase license and registration fees for motorists. Talks covered the possibility that additional fines for moving violations would be taken off the table.
Unfortunately, no deal has yet been solidified, and now Republicans are saying they want to change the state's prevailing wage law as part of any agreement. The law requires contractors to pay union-scale wages on publicly funded road maintenance projects of a certain size.
Some Republicans in Harrisburg, like their colleagues across the nation, want to undercut union strength at every opportunity, and they don't care about the people doing the work or the condition of the state's infrastructure. They put politics over policy in a very destructive way.
Any hope of a transportation funding agreement now must wait until at least Nov. 12, when lawmakers return from another break. We can only wonder if they noticed the potholes and weight limits on the trip home, or if their ideology blinded them to reality.