Gut-and-Replace Tranportation Bill to Be voted on Monday

Post-Gazette on the House Democrats Transportation plan (also see Philadelphia Inquirer story) – done by gutting and replacing existing legislation. The proposal to get more money from taxpayers includes:

– Empower Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to toll Interstate 80.
– Allow the Turnpike Commission to issue debt to fund current road projects (to be paid through higher tolls and gas taxes).
– Raise tolls on the turnpike would rise by 25 percent in 2010 and about 2 to 3 percent each year thereafter.
– Increase the proportion of mass transit funding from local governments to 20%.
– Authorize local government to increase the realty transfer tax, the earned income tax, the sales tax, or a parking surcharge to fund transit.

I’ve mentioned before the ridiculousness of expanding the Turnpike Commission and raising tolls without a competitive bidding process.

Today, however, let me point out the hypocrisy of those rushing this bill through after claiming we needed to avoid “rushing to judgment” on potential Turnpike lease. Let me remind readers that I suggested a lease of the Turnpike in testimony and Geoff Segal offered additional insight about a potential lease at the same hearing last September; we held a forum in November (by which time Rep. Geist had already introduced a bill allow P3s in transportation); Governor Rendell first proposed a Turnpike lease in December; and there have been a number of hearings (we testified at one in March).

At least under new House rules (and a drafting mistake which meant the vote couldn’t happen today or last night) members will have a few days to read this new proposal and decide if it is the right option.