Commonwealth Foundation and Reason Foundation urge lawmakers to slow down on the transportation proposal
TO: Members of the Pennsylvania State Senate, Members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
FROM: Matthew J. Brouillette, Commonwealth Foundation, and Geoffrey F. Segal, Reason Foundation
CC: Governor Ed Rendell and Members of the Media
DATE: July 3, 2007
RE: Funding PA’s Transportation Infrastructure and Transit System Needs
The proposal currently under consideration to fund Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure and transit system needs is highly flawed. Therefore, we urge you not to rush into legislation that will dramatically alter the Commonwealth’s transportation policy direction for decades to come. There are at least three reasons why a delay in considering this proposal is warranted:
- Inadequate vetting of the proposal. Gov. Rendell was rightly criticized for failing to provide details of his proposed leasing of the Turnpike. Nevertheless, the general public, affected constituencies, and interested parties were given more than six months to express their opinions on the idea before anything was done legislatively.
- The currently proposed legislation would be thrust upon the people of Pennsylvania with ZERO input from the general public, affected constituencies, or interested parties.Only the lobbyists of special interests who will benefit financiallyhave been privy to the development of this proposal. There have been nopolicy hearings, no committee meetings, and no public discussions withlawmakers. In a time when the public is demanding more open,transparent and accountable government, shouldn’t we end the backroomdeals crafted by the lobbyists for the special interests at the expenseof the people of Pennsylvania?
- Waiting a few months will not hinder the proposal’s timetable.If the proposal currently before you is the best transportation policyfor the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it will withstand the publicscrutiny over the coming months. Toll increases on the Turnpike andI-80 will not go into effect until 2009, and bonds for immediaterevenue could be issued later this fiscal year. Why must thiscritical and far-reaching piece of legislation be rushed into law inJuly 2007? Rushed legislation is usually flawed legislation.
- The entire funding mechanism of this proposal is based upon a faulty premise—the tolling of I-80.The Federal Highway Administration has stated, in no uncertain terms,that the federal government would not approve tolling of I-80 to payfor other roads or mass transit. While there is an alternative tollingprogram under federal law, only one slot remains open and several otherstates are already competing for it. It is also intended forinterstates in dire need of congestion reduction. For most of itslength, I-80 does not fit these federal parameters. What is Plan B if the Federal Highway Administration prohibits the tolling of I-80?
- Paying interest rather than earning interest.The current proposal would strap Pennsylvanians with significant debtfor decades to come. Other transportation funding options should befully considered before bonding for billions of dollars.
- While other states are earning interest from their toll roads, the current proposal would force taxpayers to pay interest on multi-billion dollar bonds. Is this legislation truly in the best interests of citizens and citizens? Or are their better financing arrangements?
- Perpetuating the status quo fails to solve the problems.By subsidizing the current system without significant reforms, theproposal under consideration would merely postpone the current crisisfor another day—it will not solve it.
- The Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission stated: “The Commission concludes that no additional fundingshould be provided for highways, bridges and transit unless a series ofparallel actions are taken to reform funding structure and a number oftransportation business practices.” [Emphasis added] What significant reforms have been enacted to merit additional funding?
- As other states move toward new ways of financing and operating its transportation infrastructure and transit systems, Pennsylvania will be left behind once again. Whywould Pennsylvania lawmakers ignore the examples from across the nationand around the world of how to solve transportation problems WITHOUTborrowing billions or raising taxes and fees?
It is clear that the proposal currently before you has not been fullyvetted, may not be in the best interests of taxpayers and commuters,and will likely only postpone and perpetuate—rather than solve—thecurrent crisis. Therefore, we urge you not to rush through legislationthat will dramatically alter Pennsylvania’s transportationinfrastructure and transit systems for decades to come. It is tooimportant of a policy issue to be used as a budget bargaining chip.
Thank you for considering this request. We encourage you to visit our websites (www.CommonwealthFoundation.org and www.Reason.org)for additional information on possible ways of adequately addressingPennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure and transit system needs.Please feel free to contact us if we can be of further assistance.
Matthew J. Brouillette
Geoffrey F. Segal