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Corbett: Proposal to fund transportation, transit agencies to be tied to February budget address

| Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, 6:28 p.m.

Local business leaders welcomed Gov. Tom Corbett's plans to propose funding for the state's crumbling transportation infrastructure and cash-strapped transit agencies next year.

Corbett listed transportation funding among his 2013 priorities during remarks to about 500 people on Saturday morning behind closed doors at a Pennsylvania Society event in Manhattan, according to The Associated Press.

“We're looking at everything,” he told reporters after his speech, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News reported.

“There are a lot of options. I want to talk to the members of the (state) House and Senate. I want to know which options they think can get through. But we have a proposal that we're ready to go with.”

He did not offer specifics about his proposal to the Legislature, but he said the plan will be tied to his budget address in February.

“On behalf of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, we commend Gov. Corbett for his clear commitment (on Saturday) to comprehensive transportation and transit funding,” Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky said. “He recognizes the vital importance of our transportation infrastructure and transit systems in moving goods to market and people to work, school and other daily activities.”

Yablonsky served on Corbett's Transportation Funding Advisory Council, which issued recommendations in August 2011 on raising the billions of dollars necessary to repair roads and bridges, as well as provide stable funding for transit agencies that face perennial funding crises.

The report estimated the state's unmet transportation funding needs would reach $7.5 billion in 10 years if a solution is not reached, but more than a year later, lawmakers have failed to act on it.

“We appreciate the governor's commitment to a comprehensive, multi-modal statewide transportation funding solution and we look forward to working with him, state legislators, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to achieve a reliable, sustainable funding source that grows with inflation,” Steve Bland, CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny County, said in a statement.

A long-term solution to the state's transportation funding woes has eluded lawmakers for years, despite rancorous debates over mass transit cuts, a late-term push by former Gov. Ed Rendell, and dire warnings about dangers posed by crumbling infrastructure.

The transportation advisory council report recommended increasing vehicle and driver fees to keep up with inflation, dedicating 2 percent of the state sales tax to transportation funding and increasing the oil company franchise tax, among other recommendations. Corbett did not specify whether any of those changes would be in his proposal next year, according to the AP.

“We look forward to working with the governor, his administration and the General Assembly in 2013 to make long-term, comprehensive funding for transportation and transit a reality,” said Barbara McNees, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.

Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or mwereschagin@tribweb.com.

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