With last night's defeat of the latest $2.4 billion transportation funding reform proposals in the state House of Representatives, the issue could carry over into next year. And legislators said it's a matter of equal compromise and bills without tax increases.
“We’re now finally in a position to have the discussion that we should’ve been having: How do we reallocate what we already have in state spending?” said Rep. Stephen Bloom, a Republican representing Cumberland County who joined his other fiscally conservative colleagues in voting against the bill last night.
Redirecting money from other areas into transportation funding and prioritizing projects such as bridge replacement could be a way to move forward without increasing taxes, he said.
Bloom said redirecting some casino revenue could provide $300 million and opening additional state forest lands to natural-gas drilling could provide the state with another $300 million for transportation. Those are just two proposals, but there are others already on the table, he said.
“We have to reallocate rather than take the easy way out and just raise taxes,” Bloom said.
The state now spends more than $6.5 billion on transportation, he said.
Democratic leaders see the need for additional money to fix the roads, bridges and fund mass transit.
“I don’t know how you fill potholes without money. I don’t know of a company or a worker who will do that without getting paid,” said Lancaster Rep. Michael Sturla, the House Democratic policy chairman.
He said he voted against the bill last night because the Republicans kept asking for Democrats to guarantee more votes but refused to compromise on issues such as linking prevailing wage changes. He said they’re frustrated with deals in which legislative Republicans and Gov. Tom Corbett want votes yet aren’t willing to address Democratic concerns on bills.
The fact that both parties had problems with last night’s compromise from Rep. Nick Micozzie — the Republican Transportation Committee Chairman — demonstrates that it’s an ongoing discussion, Bloom said. Logistically, it might not be possible to finish transportation funding before the end of the year, he said.
Sturla said it’s difficult to see how transportation funding moves forward when there are still large gaps between the parties about how to compromise on issues.
“We are disappointed,” Corbett spokesman Steve Chizmar said this morning. “Pennsylvanians will have to pay a price for this failure of the House to compromise.”
The governor still wants a deal on transportation funding, and he’ll continue to talk to House members about how to achieve that, Chizmar said. But everyone needs to regroup. Whether it moves forward before the end of the year is largely up to the General Assembly, he said.
“We pulled out all the stops for this, but partisan politics prevailed,” Chizmar said.