Governor Ed Rendell has presented a two-pronged plan for generating about $1 billion dollars to fix up Pennsylvania's ailing roads and bridges. But neither part of the plan
is particularly surprising. Rendell and Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler are
proposing a new tax on oil company profits designed to bring in $576 million in the first year.
They also want to raise all motor vehicle fees, noting many of those costs have held steady for years while road construction prices have soared.
The governor says he's not married to the plan -- just to filling the gap left when the federal government shot down tolling Interstate 80. The state's transportation budget was counting on $492 million from tolling I-80.
As for the oil company tax, Rendell insists the state would be able to ensure that companies don't saddle consumers with the new levy through the use of forensic audits and market comparisons. Critics have indicated that trying to block oil companies from passing on the tax through increased prices at the pump might be illegal.
Absent from the proposal is hiking the state's gas tax, though
the governor says he would still support such a move.
It's not clear if the legislature will act on transportation funding before the November election, or even before Rendell leaves office in January.