Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Panel OKs $2 billion transportation plan

by PETER JACKSON Associated Press on June 28, 2013 10:40 AM

HARRISBURG — The House Transportation Committee on Thursday approved a plan to boost transportation funding by about $2 billion a year within five years by increasing the wholesale tax on motor fuels and tapping a grab bag of other new taxes, fees and fines.

The proposal could face more changes before a compromise can be negotiated with the Senate with just three days left in the legislative session. Supporters said the House committee proposal would allow the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to expand work on overdue highway and bridge projects while bolstering state funding for mass transportation and setting aside additional money for rail, ports, aviation, bicyclists and pedestrians.

It would be the first major increase in transportation funding in 16 years, they said, and would give Pennsylvania one of the nation’s highest fuel taxes.

Some lawmakers have pushed for more money in the bill, while some conservatives have argued for less.

The bill is scheduled for floor debate Saturday, spokesmen for both parties said. The legislative session is expected to end Sunday, the last day of the state’s fiscal year.

If the House approves a plan, lawmakers will have to reconcile differences between it and a Senate proposal that would raise $2.5 billion a year by increasing the oil company franchise tax more quickly and increasing fees on vehicle registration, driver’s licenses and traffic violations.

Both proposals are more costly than the $1.8 billion plan Gov. Tom Corbett advanced in February. The Republican ran on a no-new-taxes pledge in 2010 but has called for removing the $1.25-a-gallon cap on the oil company franchise tax, which would extend the tax to the full wholesale price and generate substantial new revenue.

The Department of Transportation is spending $5.3 billion this year on highways, bridges and mass transit systems.

The House committee’s proposal relies mainly on phasing in an increase in the wholesale fuel tax over five years. But it also calls for higher levies on aviation jet fuel, tire purchases and leased vehicles and would grant new authority for municipalities to increase certain local taxes to help finance public transportation.

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