The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 20, 2013

Reform the way government operates

Daily Item

---- — News the Pennsylvania Senate wrapped its May session on Tuesday without looking at the transportation bill is, unfortunately, par for the course in Pennsylvania. This was a bill that breezed through committee with a 13-1 vote, is expected to pass through Senate before getting a tougher test in the House.

The issue here isn't with the bill, or even the governor's plan to lift the wholesale gas tax to fund the bill. The problem is with the Senate's lack of action, one way or another, on a transportation bill that will provide fixes that are sorely needed.

Barry Schoch, the state's transportation secretary, said back in December that the state is $2 billion behind on infrastructure investment. He also noted that, on average, bridges in the state are more than a half-century old and in disrepair. That was before last week's fiery explosion in the state's capital closed down a much-traveled interchange, another $10 million fix.

Roads and bridges are crumbling right beneath our tires. Busy stretches of road in the Valley are once again closed for work that is seemingly done every year in the same locales.

So now is the time to act; packing up on a random Tuesday in May is not acceptable.

According to the state legislative calendar, the Senate has had 32 "regular session" days so far this year and won't be back in session until June 3, which will be the 154th day of 2013. A session day is pretty simple: They are days when legislators are in Harrisburg and voting.

Obviously our legislators are not working just three days week, but it does seem like for the $82,000 a year they make, they could stick around a couple more days to move a much-needed bill forward.

It's a stance Rob Teplitz, one of the driving forces behind the state's Government Reform Caucus, is pushing as a way to reform state government. "The best way we can address issues is by first reforming the way this state government operates," Teplitz, a Democrat from Dauphin County said recently.

Actually, reforming the way most levels of government operate is not an off-the-reservation idea. It often seems like the farther the governors get from the governed, the wider the disconnect.

Now is not the time for disconnect. Any delay, even a seemingly inconsequential 20-day break, can cost taxpayers millions of dollars that no one can afford to waste.