News Release: Transportation Funding Commission Plan
Township Association Supports Commission’s
Billion-Dollar Plan to Improve Roads, Bridges, and Mass Transit
The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors is throwing its support behind a multibillion-dollar plan, proposed by the governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, that takes a common-sense, networkwide approach to repairing the commonwealth’s roads, bridges, and mass transit systems.
Delivered to Gov. Tom Corbett on Monday, the report provides the administration and lawmakers with a road map for raising $2.5 billion in annual funding to improve transportation infrastructure.
Townships oversee 56,000 miles of those roads along with thousands of bridges. PSATS, the organization that represents them, hails the plan as a step in the right direction and is urging the governor and General Assembly to enact the recommendations. Two association representatives, Assistant Executive Director Elam M. Herr and Jim Decker, a supervisor for Stroud Township in Monroe County, served on the 40-member commission.
“This state-appointed group did some things that others before it haven’t: It recognized the vital role that local roads and bridges play in Pennsylvania’s transportation system; it listened to local government; it treated municipalities as partners; and it responded with a doable, long-term solution that is going to put the commonwealth’s transportation system back on the road to recovery,” PSATS Executive Director David M. Sanko said.
The commission’s plan, to be phased in over the next five years, would eventually provide municipalities with around $400 million annually for local transportation projects. The panel has recommended that the state raise the money by indexing outdated license and registration fees, uncapping the oil company franchise tax, shifting partial funding for the State Police to the General Fund, modernizing vehicle inspection and registration requirements, and consolidating mass transit programs and services. New toll roads and a gasoline tax are not part of the plan, which the General Assembly is expected to address when members return to Harrisburg in September.
“It has long been acknowledged there is a shortage of money for the state’s rapidly deteriorating transportation infrastructure,” Sanko said. “Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch (also the commission chair) understands the history, the issue, and the challenges for success.
“Perhaps the most meaningful part of this report is an acknowledgment that local government is a major part of a comprehensive transportation system,” he added. “The average Pennsylvanian cannot get to rail or air or interstates without using local roads and bridges.”
Still, despite their importance, local roads and bridges have been underfunded. Townships have watched as their share of the state’s Liquid Fuels Fund – the traditional mechanism for funding local transportation – has dropped from its traditional fair-share of 20 percent to 14.7 percent in recent years. This decrease, coupled with rising labor and material costs, has left local leaders with two choices: raise taxes or put projects on hold.
In one PennDOT district, for instance, municipalities spent $202 million on road repairs in 2008, yet received only $47.5 million in liquid fuels reimbursements.
“For years, PSATS has been asking the state to come up with a long-term funding source to help our members address some very real problems on the ground,” Sanko said. “Our hope is that the governor and the General Assembly see that the commission did its job: It found funding – significant funding – for transportation without raising taxes.
“We all want better roads, and the bottom line is, we can’t get to that point without more dollars. The commission has come up with a solid solution. Now, it’s up to the General Assembly to make things happen in the fall, and we’re going to be encouraging them every step of the way.”
The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors represents Pennsylvania’s 1,455 townships of the second class and for the past 90 years has been committed to preserving and strengthening township government and securing greater visibility and involvement for townships in the state and federal political arenas. Townships of the second class represent more residents — 5.5 million Pennsylvanians — than any other type of political subdivision in the commonwealth.
Ginni Linn, PSATS Director of Communications