Pennsylvania Senate panel OKs transportation funding legislation

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A bill that would generate up to $2.5 billion per year in new revenue for Pennsylvania roads, bridges, transit and other transportation modes passed its first legislative test on Tuesday.

The state Senate Transportation Committee voted 13-1 to advance the bill, which would lift a cap on the tax paid by gasoline wholesalers, likely resulting in increased prices at the pump. It would increase several vehicle fees, including those for licenses and registrations, and add a $100 surcharge to some traffic fines.

"This is not an easy lift for some people, but it is one that is necessary," said the sponsor, transportation panel chair John Rafferty, R-Montgomery. "We have roadways in bad shape and 4,400 bridges in bad shape."

The panel's ranking Democrat, John Wozniak of Bedford County, who co-sponsored the legislation, said "we're not doing this because we want to do it. We're doing it because we have to do it."

At present, the tax on gasoline wholesalers is levied on a maximum price of $1.25 per gallon. Mr. Rafferty's bill would remove the cap in stages over three years, allowing the tax to be levied on the full wholesale price. Based on current prices, that would raise the tax by 28.5 cents per gallon, some or all of which could be passed on to consumers. The legislation also would cut the tax paid directly by motorists by 2 cents per gallon.

The cost of registering a vehicle would go from the current $36 for one year to $104 for two years, and a driver's license that costs $29.50 and is valid for four years would cost $50.50 and be valid for six years. Those increases were calculated to offset the inflation that has occurred since the fees were last raised in 1997.

The overall cost to a typical motorist would be about $160 per year after the plan is fully implemented.

Sen. Richard Kasunic, D-Dunbar, cast the only no vote.

The measure goes to the full Senate, which will refer it to the Appropriations Committee for possible amendments. A vote by the full Senate is expected next month. Mr. Rafferty has 28 co-sponsors, more than enough to ensure passage, but the measure faces a less-certain future in the House.

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Jon Schmitz: or 412-263-1868.


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