Turnpike Commission’s “Fuzzy Math”

The latest talking points put out by the PA Turnpike Commission claim that the plan will generate $1.67 billion per year to PennDOT for transportation funding. This is substantially higher than most media accounts (see here for example), pegging the contribution at about $950 million per year.

The difference is length of time – the Turnpike Commission’s latest memo indicates the average over 50 years, versus media report looking at the average over 10 years. What the Turnpike Commission fails to mention is that the contribution won’t reach $1.6 billion until 2034.

I suspect that Brimmeier and the Turnpike Commisssion wants to put out a number closer to the $1.7 billion the Governor’s Transportation Funding Reform Commission Report found the state would need for transportation. Of course, the Turnpike Commission’s long term average ignores the effect of inflation on the value of the dollar, while the Governor’s report refers to the present value of $1.7 billion.

In fact, adjusting for inflation – using the average CPI of the last 50 years of 4.12% – the Turnpike Commission’s contributions will never reach $1.6 billion in real (2007) dollars, or even $1 billion, for that matter. In fact, given Act 44 calls for increases of 2.5% in annual payments, real (inflation adjusted) contributions would decline any time inflation exceeds 2.5%.