Gov. Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission met Monday for the second time to discuss ways of closing perennial shortfalls in bridge, road, and public-transit funding. At stake are needs that have become all too familiar to anyone who drives or commutes in Pennsylvania: aging bridges, potholed roads, and financially struggling bus and train lines.
Among the dozens of ideas being floated: increases to vehicle and driver license fees, tire-disposal fees, and car-rental fees. All told, such fee increases could raise a projected $450 million.
Sound like great ideas? Corbett's predecessor thought so, too. Ed Rendell proposed the same fees as recently as a year ago.
Then they vanished in the legislative ether, along with other "revenue enhancements" he had sought to offset the loss of federal stimulus funds. And that was when the state House was controlled by ostensibly more tax-friendly Democrats.
Corbett Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch, who is chairman of the 36-member commission, said he did not want to presume to comment on the prior administration's ideas. But he thinks Pennsylvania - which has not raised transportation fees in 35 years - needs to act more like a utility company. That is, to raise rates gradually in response to inflation.
Schoch said other Rendell-era ideas such as privatizing the Pennsylvania Turnpike or raising the gasoline tax were off the table. But the panel is open to creating more toll roads, notwithstanding the rejection by the federal government of Rendell's proposal to toll Interstate 80.
Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans, said GOP leaders do not wish to comment on the transportation-funding ideas at this drawing-board stage. The commission hopes to send its formal recommendations to the governor by Aug. 1.
"Gov. Corbett made it clear he doesn't intend to raise any taxes or fees," Miskin said. "We'll see what the commission comes up with in its final report." And if any of it sounds vaguely familiar,