The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 21, 2013

Critical issues hanging for Legislature

HARRISBURG — State Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Northumberland, was one of the most outspoken proponents of liquor privatization in the state House in the early summer.

On the floor of the General Assembly, Masser complained that, as a restaurateur, about the only products served in his restaurants that aren’t delivered to the business are the booze products sold by the state store system.

But Friday morning, Masser said, while he is “cautiously optimistic” that the Legislature will accomplish one of the big policy goals established by Gov. Tom Corbett earlier this year, liquor privatization may be the least important.

“I’d love to see (liquor privatization),” Masser said. “But it’s not going to get anyone killed if we don’t do it.”

The same cannot necessarily be said about transportation funding in a state with 4,000 structurally deficient bridges, Masser said.

It was a sentiment echoed word-for-word by state Sen. Gene Yaw,

R-Lycoming.

“We are sitting on a ticking time bomb,” Yaw said.

Pennsylvania has the third-largest number of bridges in the U.S., but the state has the most bridges identified as being structurally deficient. In addition, PennDOT announced this summer that weight limits are being placed on 1,000 bridges that need repairs but won’t get them unless the Legislature passes a transportation funding plan.

Efforts to pour money into road and bridge repairs derailed when the issue became informally linked with liquor privatization.

The Senate passed a transportation funding plan and the House passed a bill that would dismantle the state’s liquor monopoly.

But at the 11th hour before the end of the budget year, both plans died in a stalemate as lawmakers were crippled waiting for the other chamber to act.

As Masser’s remarks suggest, there may be momentum building to act on transportation funding in the House even without a liquor plan in the Senate.

Finding a solution will still be tricky because transportation funding could be hamstrung by a Catch-22: Democrats want the plan to be more expensive, but the bigger the price tag, the less likely it is that Republicans will buy into it.

“How we find that sweet spot remains to be seen,” said state Rep. Dick Stevenson, R-Mercer.

Stevenson said there is such division within the House Republican caucus over transportation funding that any successful bill is going to need Democratic support.

“The question is, how do we find a bipartisan solution?” Stevenson said.

There is consensus about the need for action, and intense pressure for Corbett to notch a victory before 2014, when he stands for re-election.

Even some Democrats believe that the time may be right for a transportation funding plan.

“I’d give that one a good strong chance,” said Rep. Jaret Gibbons, D-Lawrence. “I don’t hold high hopes for liquor privatization or the pension reforms.”

But, with Corbett’s popularity at historic lows, it’s unclear whether Republican lawmakers will seek to put themselves at risk in order to achieve Corbett’s goals.

“I think we’re looking at more stagnation,” said Rep. Patrick Harkins, D-Erie.

Stevenson said that if Corbett’s perceived vulnerabilities are going to be a factor, it will likely be because Democrats are more willing to draw a firm line in the sand to avoid giving Corbett any opportunity to claim a victory.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • fire_23 Investigators seek cause of West End fire

    The cause of a five-alarm fire early Monday at a vacant structure in the 500 block of Dorothy Avenue in Johnstown’s West End has not been determined, according to city fire officials.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Richland seeks loan for roof, HVAC work

    Richland Township’s plans to replace the municipal building’s roof and heating and air conditioning system will cost nearly $600,000, Solicitor Gary Costlow said.

    July 22, 2014

  • Undocumented children already arriving in state

    An influx of unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border is spilling over into Pennsylvania, as state officials received word Monday that more than 500 are being housed in the commonwealth.

    July 22, 2014

  • Auditor cites flaws in gas drilling regulation

    Strained by limited resources and the rapid expansion of natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, environmental regulators have failed to adequately monitor well safety or to provide clear and timely information to citizens, the state auditor general said Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • Driver in fatal DUI crash will serve jail time

    A Vintondale man was sentenced Tuesday in Cambria County court to serve 16 to 32 months in the county jail for a 2011 alcohol-related crash that killed a woman.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tribune Treasure!

    July 22, 2014

  • Reade Twp. water projects receive funding

    Three water treatment systems in Cambria County will receive financial assistance from the state Department of Environmental Protection to remove acid mine drainage from nearby waterways.

    July 22, 2014

  • stoystown Tractor Fest Antique tractors chugging toward Stoystown fest

    A display of a whole lotta horsepower and pulling contests will highlight the 14th annual Antique Tractor Festival.
    Sponsored by Stoystown Lions Club and Laurel Highlands Antique Power Club, the event will be held July 31 through Aug. 3 at the Lions’ park, one-half mile east of Stoystown on Route 30.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Irish dance school wants to set toes tapping in Cambria County

    If you ever wanted to learn to dance an Irish jig, now is your chance.
    Kenny Cavanaugh School of Irish Dance, based out of Milford, Pike County, is expanding into Cambria County.

    July 22, 2014

  • Paterno son, other former assistant sue Penn State for $1M

    A son of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has sued the university over his dismissal from its coaching staff two years ago, saying he has been unfairly linked to the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

    July 22, 2014

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
House Ads