Call it Gov. Tom Corbett’s road show.
The state Legislature has yet to seriously take up the issue of transportation funding. But members of the Corbett administration have been traveling the state to publicly tie dollars for eagerly anticipated transportation projects to the funding plan.
It may be an attempt to head off opposition before it gets fully organized as the funding strategy relies on what could be a controversial tax increase of about 25 cents on every gallon of gas.
Last week, Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch joined a group of lawmakers and community leaders in Sunbury to announce that the plan would provide $558 million to complete a thruway project that has been on the drawing boards for 30 years.
In March, Corbett announced that money from the transportation plan would help pay for the subsidy needed to keep the Harrisburg-to-Pittsburgh Amtrak route running.
The Department of Transportation plans to release a complete list of projects that depend on funding from the gas-tax plan later this spring, said PennDOT spokesman Steve Chizmar. But, the department has already disclosed a dozen such projects worth a combined $1.2 billion in construction costs.
That is essentially the same amount that Corbett’s plan would set aside for repairs to state-owned roads every year once the plan is fully funded.
Because the gas tax increase is being phased in, Corbett’s plan would generate about $510 million in additional transportation funding in the first year and $1.8 billion a year by the end of five years.
The governor’s plan would devote an additional $1.2 billion to state-owned roads and bridges; $250 million more to mass transit;
$200 million more for local roads and bridges; and $75 million to a multimodal fund for trains and airports.
State Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, said that it has been easy for lawmakers to say they will support the transportation plan because the notion that it will translate into increased prices at the pump has not been widely recognized by the public. In addition, many Republican lawmakers have taken no-tax increase pledges. The governor, who has been adamantly opposed to tax increases himself, has tried to create some wiggle room. The plan is to lift the ceiling on a wholesale gas tax. Because of the ceiling, the gas tax is based on a top price of $1.25 a gallon even though gas now can cost three times that much.
Wozniak said that the state has not increased the tax on gas since 1997.
The tax increase is almost certainly needed because the state has to fix its roads and bridges, he said.
“If we don’t do something, and then a bridge falls down, then everyone will be asking why we didn’t do something,” he said.
But if the plan is going to depend on motorists paying more at the gas station, that kind of pain in the wallet is going to need to be shared.
“If there is going to be pain at the pump, then mass transit is going to have to have some skin in the game, too,” Wozniak said.
It is a sentiment felt by many rural lawmakers.
“Car owners pay a gasoline tax, a registration fee, an inspection sticker fee, a driver’s license fee. They pay sales tax when they buy their car; they pay sales tax on auto repairs; they pay sales tax on auto parts; they pay a tire tax; they pay a car lease tax; and they pay tolls to use some highways and bridges,” said Rep. Bradley Roae, R-Crawford.
“Mass transit riders who do not own cars pay zero for our transportation system. They contribute nothing. If we consider raising the gasoline tax, we should also consider a mass transit tax so that all Pa. citizens share in the cost of our transportation system.”
Call it Gov. Tom Corbett’s road show.
- Local News
Halfway house inmates can ease back into society
Prison life can be a time warp.
When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.
Crime board took aim at house
Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.
Homicides linked to center
Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Volunteers helping to spruce up community
Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.
The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.
Hartzok targets income disparity
Alanna Hartzok described herself as being a conservative progressive.
The Franklin County resident said she is in favor of conserving environmental resources, education opportunities, Social Security and Medicare, while wanting to progressively address wealth inequality, health care and taxation.
Schools rise to leadership challenge
Forest Hills and Cambria Heights high school students put the spirit of healthy competition toward a good cause and picked up some lessons in leadership along the way.
Student’s photos win awards
A Forest Hills High School junior has captured several awards in a high school arts and writing contest that has identified greats such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.
JIM SIEHL | Music to my ears
Seldom has $15 produced such a high level of entertainment as it did a few weeks ago when I found myself in the second row just left of center keeping back the tears once again during my third live performance of “Les Miserables.”
Bye, bye, Easter birdies
Animals fascinated my mom. Riding the train between Johnstown and Philly, she saw horses, pigs, sheep, cows … a Mattel See ’n Say of farm critters.
Travelogue of terror features Johnstown area
A historic week will surround the venerable Silver Drive-In come the beginning of May.
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