Rendell’s transportation problem

The Allentown Morning Call’s John Micek posted a great analysis  of the politics of transportation funding on Sunday. He writes:

Here’s The Problem Facing Governor Rendell when it comes to finding new state money for roads and bridges.

On the same day that the Democratic governor’s barnstorming bus tour rolled into Ellwood City on the Ohio border Friday, a lawmaker from another part of rural western Pennsylvania was holding a golf outing for supporters who paid as much as $2,000 each for the privilege of supporting his re-election campaign and spending a few hours on the links under a blazing August sun.

In other words, Rendell, a lame-duck who leaves office in January, is looking to his legacy.

But the 253-members of the General Assembly who face voters in November are simply looking for another term.

And that means they’re unlikely to do anything to screw it up — like casting a vote in favor of the tax and vehicle fee hikes that the governor says are necessary to close a $450 million hole this year and to provide a stable funding source for a roughly $1 billion backlog of road and bridge repairs.

“They’re not voting for taxes,” said Terry Madonna, a political science professor and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. “They’d be loath to vote for taxes in a non-election year.” …

Rendell will be talking transportation at 9 AM on this morning’s WITF Radio Smart Talk.


Rendell endorses gas tax

Governor Rendell wants lawmakers to find new revenue sources for transportation infrastructure. Among the measures he’d accept: a gas tax, boosted registration fees, and a tax on oil companies.

Pennsylvania faces a nearly $500 million annual hole, due to the Feds’ rejection of I-80 tolling.

One of the options Rendell’s calling for is a 3.25 cent gas tax increase, which the governor says drivers “probably would not even notice.” Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson says Rendell is “flat-out wrong.”

Rendell says the gas tax isn’t his preferred funding source, but that he’d sign the bill if it reaches his desk. His top priority is an excise profits tax on oil companies.

The governor is calling for a special session on transportation to re-convene August 23rd. But Arneson says the Senate isn’t returning to Harrisburg until mid-September. The Senate Transportation Committee takes a look at the issue on Wednesday, and Rendell says he’ll testify before the panel. As a bit of extra – cough – incentive to lawmakers, the governor is promising to kindly inform the panel’s senators which of their district transportation projects will lose money, if they don’t come up with a new revenue stream.

Rendell with his Transportation Super Team