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Corbett may hold line on transit funding

Gov. Corbett may not push for more transportation funding this year, despite the recommendations of his own advisory commission.

Gov. Corbett may not push for more transportation funding this year, despite the recommendations of his own advisory commission.

State transportation secretary Barry Schoch said Thursday that other pressing issues and the state's weak economy may convince Corbett to delay action on some or all of the transportation-funding proposals of his panel.

The governor's Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, chaired by Schoch, called in August for higher registration and license fees and raising a component of the gasoline tax to produce $2.5 billion more for highways, bridges and mass transit.

In the state legislature, pressure is building to move on the recommendations, with the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre), and state Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) pushing bills to implement the transportation funding proposals without the governor's go-ahead.

"The governor is looking at the recommendations of the commission and at a few other balls in the air," Schoch told Philadelphia business and political leaders Thursday at a breakfast meeting on funding infrastructure. "You haven't heard from him because he's trying to balance these different issues."

Schoch said those issues include the impact of the funding proposals on the state budget, the prospect of raising money by selling off the state-run liquor business, effects on transportation of Marcellus shale legislation, and the impact higher user fees could have on motorists struggling in a weak economy.

Schoch said Corbett "is committed to doing something on transportation," but the timetable might slower than urged by the advisory panel.

But Rob Wonderling, president of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the Thursday gathering, said Corbett may be prodded to action by the legislature.

Wonderling, a former Montgomery County Republican state senator who was a member of Corbett's advisory panel, said the bills by Corman and Evans "have created a dynamic...that the governor will have to react to."

"People are crying out for decisive action," Wonderling said after the session. He said the governor and the legislature could multi-task and deal with transportation funding at the same time as the other issues cited by Schoch.

Schoch on Thursday reiterated the need for more transportation funding, outlining the dire state of Pennsylvania's bridges, highways and mass transit systems.

He noted Pennsylvania has more "structurally deficient" bridges than any other state - more than 5,000 - and that without more money for repairs, the number will increase quickly.

He said that Pennsylvania residents will pay, "one way or another," either in higher costs for repairs or in lost time and increased congestion for keeping spending at current levels.