Split Between Corbett and House GOP on Transit Funding

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Jon Schmitz says Tom Corbett’s PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch has been telling the smart growthers that the Corbett administration has no intention of doing separate funding bills for transit and auto infrastructure:

Mr. Schoch also said the governor’s plan will address all modes of transportation, including a long-term strategy for funding public transit agencies like the Port Authority.

Asked about state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai’s recent remarks that he wanted separate consideration of mass transit funding, Mr. Schoch said: “That’s not our approach. That’s not the administration’s position.”

But Mike Turzai and some House Republicans from the big empty areas of the state say they’re readying bills to nuke address transit separately, because blacks and liberals:

Whatever Corbett’s plan is, there’s still likely to be a legislative battle over it. While many state Republicans and Democrats have expressed support for a funding package and introducing legislation that incorporates much of the transit commission’s recommendations, hurdles remain.

On Dec. 11, Republican state Rep. Brad Roae emailed fellow lawmakers stating that transportation-funding reform should include “eliminating funding” for mass transit.

“I resent my constituents paying higher gasoline tax so that we can keep small-system, fixed-route bus service that nobody uses and subsidize large systems that are already far cheaper than driving for their customers,” he wrote.

What’s so cute about Rep. Roae’s statement is that he thinks drivers are subsidizing transit. As if gas taxes pay for roads!

Let’s hand it over to Barry Schoch again:

“We actually subsidize rural roads at a much higher rate than we subsidize mass transit. If you think about a two lane road – if it doesn’t carry at least 10,000 vehicles a day, it’s being subsidized.”

Schoch says most rural roads carry fewer than 2-thousand vehicles. And he says most of Penn Dot’s revenue comes from vehicle fees and gas taxes; the lion’s share of which is paid by residents in Pennsylvania’s urban areas.

The subsidy goes the other way – the more urbanized areas subsidize transportation infrastructure in rural and low-density areas.

And it’s not just the user fees from motorists in urban areas, but the big metro economies themselves that contribute most of the state’s revenue. That state revenue is what pays for the massive government transfers that make the rural way of life possible in the first place.

If Rep. Roae wants more state revenue to subsidize rural roads, then he needs to get behind even cheaper mass transit in the cities, to make the big metro economies run more smoothly. Eliminating state transit funding as he suggests would grind down the productivity of the big metro economies with crippling traffic congestion. They’d send less tax revenue to the state, and the roads in Rep. Roae’s district would receive even fewer maintenance subsidies.

Now luckily there probably aren’t enough backward-thinking House representatives for the Turzai proposals to pass, and there are definitely too many Republicans in transit-served Senate districts for it to have a chance there either.

But I’m not confident we’re going to end up with a deal that transit supporters are thrilled about, and that’s why I think advocates should consider supporting proposals to decrease reliance on the state and increase reliance on regional revenues from congestion pricing, land taxes, and perhaps even a new regional payroll tax.

Barry Schoch hints that some local option taxes could end up in the funding bill:

Mr. Schoch said he favors legislation giving local governments new options for taxes and fees to fund transportation improvements.

This entry was posted in Budget, Land Use, Transportation.

4 Responses to Split Between Corbett and House GOP on Transit Funding

  1. Pam says:

    Oh goody, Rep. Roae is trying to figure out ways to divide us even more! That’s just what this country needs – more divisions.

  2. frank says:

    One thing that people are missing is the fact that Turzai has been after mass transit (mainly the Port Authority) for as long as he has been in office.
    He is upset and feels it is a personal war between him and them.
    He has spent his career publicly coming up with hair brain schemes to cut all transit funding and outsource. Its all public record and easily available to follow his history.
    Like I said, with Turzai, its personal and now he feels more empowerment to fulfill this dream of his.
    He will make the Wrong decisions for the state and the economic status simply to fulfill his personal agenda.
    I am sure that the other lawmakers are aware of this and its probably a quiet running joke behind his back over him Loathing transit and all of the people that use it.
    He is after all a staunch tea party member.

  3. Pingback: 12/21 Morning Buzz | PoliticsPA

  4. JoyfulA says:

    Turzai has already managed to develop a national reputation as a sleaze. I would have thought he’d learned to mind his mouth over that experience.