What Will the General Assembly Do?
Turnpike lease opportunity is going away
HARRISBURG, PA—The $12.8 billion offer to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike will officially expire today at 5:00 p.m., unless Pennsylvania Transportation Partners (Abertis/CitiGroup) decide to extend its offer once again. All indications suggest that the multi-national transportation consortium will be taking its capital to other, more welcoming states seeking private infrastructure investment.
“With the inaction of the General Assembly on the Turnpike lease proposal, Pennsylvania policymakers must now begin to ask some tough questions of the Turnpike Commission and be willing to address the difficult answers that will follow,” said Matthew Brouillette, president of the Commonwealth Foundation.
Act 44—despite a second and final rejection of Turnpike Commission’s efforts to toll Interstate 80—still relies on massive bonded debt to only partially pay for our roads, highways, bridges, and mass transit needs.
“The Turnpike Commission’s Act 44 is currently putting the taxpayers and toll payers in deeper debt every day the General Assembly fails to come up with another solution,” said Brouillette. “The likely result is even higher tolls on the turnpike and higher gas taxes at the pump if Harrisburg fails to address this problem now.”
The Commonwealth Foundation identified several critical questions that members of the General Assembly must answer to protect taxpayers and toll payers.
- Will the General Assembly continue to permit the Turnpike Commission to go into unlimited bonded debt, placing both taxpayers and toll payers at risk?
- What will the General Assembly do if the Turnpike Commission’s revenues are insufficient to operate and maintain the Turnpike, service its new debt obligations, and make hundreds of millions of dollars in payments to PennDOT?
- Will the General Assembly impose on the Turnpike Commission the operating and performance standards (with punishments for failing to comply) similar to those that would have been imposed on a private operator?
- What will the General Assembly do if the Turnpike Commission cannot (for financial or other reasons) complete its expected construction and rehabilitation plans?
- What will the General Assembly do if the Turnpike Commission’s credit ratings are further downgraded (for whatever reasons) and the cost of borrowing increases?
“These are just a handful of the questions the General Assembly must answer because of the failure to act on the $12.8 billion bid to lease the Turnpike,” said Brouillette. “Failing to address these issues will only further put Pennsylvania taxpayers and toll-payers at greater risk.”
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The Commonwealth Foundation (www.CommonwealthFoundation.org) is an independent, non-profit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg, PA.
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