Thursday, June 17, 2010
A series of Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee hearings will wrap up Friday In Monroeville. The series began May 27 with a hearing in Harrisburg and has spent the last few weeks traveling around the state. A recent report found the state needs to spend $3.5 billion a year above what it currently spends on transportation. Committee Chair Joe Markosek calls the hearings “tough love hearings” because rather than listening to a long list of suggestions on what roads and bridges should be built or repaired the sessions are all about finding ways to bring in new revenues. The hearings are a prelude to a special session on transportation called by Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell later this summer. Rendell has called for an additional $1.7 billion in spending in the 2010-2011 budget. Markosek says all ideas for revenue enhancement are on the table except tolling I-80. The Federal Department of Transportation rejected plans to toll the highway putting a $472 million hole in the governor’s spending plan. Markosek says it is going to take a variety of revenue streams to fill the gap. Higher gas taxes, legalized video poker, an increase in licenses plate fees and public private partnerships are among the ideas being considered. Markosek says over the years the state legislature has gone after the “low hanging fruit” but members have not been willing to make the tough decisions. He says now is the time to make the decisions they have been avoiding for the last two decades. Friday’s hearing begins at 11:00am at Gateway High School.