Commissioners from the Capital Region on Tuesday tackled two of the perennial issues in Harrisburg — transportation infrastructure funding and property tax relief — during the annual State of the Region Address.
Cumberland County Commissioner Jim Hertzler, along with his colleagues from Dauphin and Perry counties, stressed the importance of state lawmakers passing a transportation bill.
“Like it or not, we need to do something,” said Perry County Commissioner Brenda Benner.
The Senate passed a bill, while the House has not. The former’s bill would invest more than $2.5 billion in infrastructure over five years. It would generate the additional revenue by uncapping the oil company franchise tax levied on the wholesale price of gasoline and diesel over three years as well as inflationary increases in license and vehicle registration fees for drivers.
A $100 surcharge dedicated to transportation also would be added to motor vehicle code violations, with fines increasing for certain traffic violations.
Hertzler and Dauphin County Commissioner Jeff Haste voiced support for a user fee or another funding model that doesn’t rely on the existing gas tax formula, which was called outdated and inadequate.
Congress should allow states to toll interstate highways to generate new revenue, Hertzler said.
On the issue of tax relief, Hertzler rehashed his support for an optional 1 percent county sales tax that would be used solely to reduce property taxes.
There is always concern that neighboring counties wouldn’t enact the tax, which could hurt businesses in those counties that have the tax. Haste called the optional part a “teaser” and something that doesn’t address the problem.
“It will adversely affect business,” he said.
On large-ticket retail items such as cars, the tax could be structured like the one in Allegheny County where the tax is paid where the vehicle is registered and not where it is purchased, Hertzler said.
He also advocated for a more regional approach to enacting the sales tax, if it were an option for counties.
Benner said it was “probably not” something she would support at this time.