Commonwealth Foundation urges Governor and General Assembly to fully fund PA’s transportation infrastructure, protect commuters and taxpayers
HARRISBURG, PA — Today, the Commonwealth Foundation called on Governor Rendell and the General Assembly to repeal Act 44 of 2007, the recently passed transportation legislation.
Act 44 empowers the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to raise tolls on the Turnpike by 25% in 2009 and 3% every year thereafter, as well erect toll plazas on the currently un-tolled Interstate-80. The surplus revenue generated from these new and higher tolls will pay off the interest and debt on bonds issued by the Turnpike Commission and its favored bond attorneys to benefit Philadelphia and Pittsburgh’s transit systems.
“Unfortunately, Act 44 provides only half the amount of money needed to remediate our dilapidated bridges, roads, and highways, but at more than twice the cost to commuters and taxpayers,” said Matthew J. Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation. “The bridge tragedy in Minneapolis should serve as a wake-up call to Pennsylvania policymakers who put the interests of the Turnpike Commission and its political friends ahead of the people’s best interests.”
Gov. Rendell admitted his failure to protect commuters and taxpayers on CNBC last week when he stated “We could have generated another half-billion dollars for bridges, roads, and highways had we leased the Turnpike to a private operator.” Instead, he pushed for and signed a bill that will provide only half the needed funds to make our bridges, roads and highways safe. In addition, Act 44 requires new taxes and tolls on Interstate-80—costs to Pennsylvanians that would have been unnecessary with a Turnpike lease.
Instead of generating the conservatively projected $1.6 billion annually from a lease of the Turnpike, Act 44 will provide less than half that amount in 2008. “Gov. Rendell admits that he agreed to legislation that will perpetually under-fund our bridges, roads, and highways,” said Brouillette. “What’s worse is that it will cost Pennsylvanians more to do so. Rather than earning interest under a Turnpike lease—upwards of $3 million per day—the commuters and taxpayers of Pennsylvania will be paying interest of approximately $11 billion over the next 35 years!”
Brouillette pointed to a chart comparing the options available to policymakers to solve Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure crisis. “It is clear that in choosing to protect the special interests at the Turnpike Commission, Gov. Rendell and the General Assembly placed Pennsylvanians at high physical and economic risk,” said Brouillette.
Brouillette noted that if the Turnpike Commission’s plan fails, taxpayers and commuters will be at financial risk via the gas tax (Motor License Fund). “Instead of shifting the entire financial risk onto a private company by leasing the Turnpike, policymakers in Harrisburg have placed that burden squarely on the shoulders of the people of Pennsylvania. It would be hard to imagine Gov. Rendell and the General Assembly coming up with worse legislation.”
Brouillette also pointed out that “It is rather ironic that we are calling for the repeal of Act 44 of 2007 approximately two years after we called for the repeal of Act 44 of 2005—the back room pay raise deal!” Brouillette said. “Act 44 of 2007 was thrust upon the people of Pennsylvania in nearly the same manner—with no public hearings, no committee meetings, and no forums with lawmakers—as was the pay raise two years ago.”
“This time, however, it was not the Constitution that was violated, but the people’s trust that their elected officials would put citizens’ physical and economic interests ahead of Harrisburg’s special interests,” he said. “Just like they did to Act 44 of 2005, Gov. Rendell and the General Assembly should repeal Act 44 of 2007—this time for our traveling safety and financial security.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information from the Commonwealth Foundation on the Turnpike lease or Act 44, go to www.CommonwealthFoundation.org and search the keyword “Turnpike”.
The Commonwealth Foundation is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute located in Harrisburg, PA.
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