The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

April 7, 2013

Pa. transportation plan banking on gas-tax hike

HARRISBURG — 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.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • WilliamsA ‘I thought I was going to die’

    Hornerstown resident Robert “Bobby” Williams said he endured two hours of surgery, suffered a heart attack and fears he may never again be able to fully use his right arm.

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • JFD traing Firefighters practice river rescues

    Johnstown Fire Department members lift a “victim” out of the rescue basket during training Wednesday along the Stonycreek River flood-control wall

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Home is Where The Tribune-Democrat is Delivered!

    Here are the names of the 10 entrants that were chosen today-April 22, 2014.  If you see your name, call the Circulation Department at 814-532-5000 (#1) or 1-866-307-0905 to verify your information.

    April 22, 2014

  • sewer meeting map Sewer work will tie up traffic

    Brace yourselves.
    This summer’s sewer main replacement project will delay traffic with detours, closed streets and lane restrictions through one of Johnstown’s notoriously snarled neighborhoods.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • USS Somerset USS Somerset arrives at San Diego homeport

    The USS Somerset is home.
    The amphibious transport dock ship named in honor of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 arrived at its new homeport of Naval Base San Diego on Monday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jablonski, Stephen Charges filed in courthouse bomb threat

    A Johnstown man was charged by Ebensburg Borough police Wednesday with threatening to blow up the Cambria County Courthouse, a call he admitted to Ebensburg police he made Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vizza, Peter Vizza voted deputy mayor

    The top vote-getter in last year’s Johnstown City Council election is now also the city’s deputy mayor.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Conemaugh Township rezoning opens business possibilities

    A portion of South Main Street in Davidsville will be rezoned to give greater allowances to the businesses along the road.

    April 23, 2014

  • Sculptor’s work to be raffled off

    The work of a local sculptor will be raffled off during the Art in Bloom show.

    April 23, 2014

  • Katie and Gary Lamer Birthday remembrance bash provides aid to region

    It’s been four years since Johnstown resident Gary Lamer died of complications from pneumonia, but his memory lives on through an annual party that gives back in a big way.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
House Ads