The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

January 25, 2013

Battle lines taking shape over state highways bill

HARRISBURG -  The battlefield is beginning to take shape for the upcoming push by Gov. Tom Corbett to enact a major transportation plan, less than two weeks before he will outline the proposal for the state's roads, bridges and mass transit services.

Legislative leaders are starting to talk about what they hope it contains — and what they will not support — in what could end up as one of Corbett's signature first-term initiatives. One sticking point could be a move to link passage of the transportation bill with efforts to privatize state-controlled liquor stores.

The first-term Republican isn't saying much about the details of what he will propose in his Feb. 5 budget address after he apparently scrapped tentative plans to roll it out this week. The governor's office has not explained the delay, but one of Corbett's legislative allies said the plan is undergoing revisions suggested by lawmakers.

"Members threw in some additional ideas to the governor about things," said House Majority Whip Stan Saylor, R-York. "I think the governor is also delaying it to do some additional research."

The centerpiece of the proposal had been an increase in wholesale gas taxes designed to raise $1.9 billion annually, and it is unclear whether that will change. For a significant number of legislators, including many Republicans, any tax increase is a nonstarter, and Corbett campaigned on a no-new-taxes platform in winning the governorship in 2010.

"Prior to enacting any widespread taxes or fee increases, Pennsylvania's various transportation agencies must account for where each dollar of additional revenue is to be spent, and moreover should justify that each dollar of the current $6.8 billion in annual transportation funding is already being spent responsibly," according to a memo distributed to House Republicans by their floor leader, Rep. Mike Turzai of Allegheny County.

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