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Business, labor leaders urge House to pass $2.5B transportation bill

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Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 2:57 p.m.
 

HARRISBURG — Business and labor groups on Tuesday urged the state House to swiftly approve a Senate-passed bill to provide $2.5 billion for transportation needs, saying the investment would keep Pennsylvania competitive.

The joining of interests that often battle each other was intended to send a message to House members that jobs and public safety are on the line.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development joined the groups to push for House passage of the bill that would lift the wholesale cap on gasoline taxes and likely raise prices at the pump to repair roads, bridges and increase funding for mass transit.

“We can't afford to wait any longer. We're getting to the point where inaction is going to discourage businesses from expanding and locating in the Pittsburgh region,” said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference.

But Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, an opponent of the Senate bill contacted after the press conference, said it's “outrageous that special interest groups are demanding that the legislature increase taxes on citizens.” A $2.5 billion tax bill imposed “on the backs of working Pennsylvanians” is not a way to create jobs, said Metcalfe, R-Cranberry.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, who opposes the bill, said he intends to call a vote.

That could come as early as next week.

Historically, when a leader in the legislature or Congress agrees to hold a vote on a bill he opposes, it often means there's an intention to see it fail, giving the leader negotiating power, said Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College.

The potential exists for the bill to win approval with support of Democrats and a minority of the Republican Caucus, Metcalfe said. Metcalfe said only bills with majority support of the GOP Caucus should be voted.

House Republicans intended to discuss the bill, a priority of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's, behind closed doors Tuesday, said House GOP spokesman Stephen Miskin.

“It's time to fund transportation and transit and keep our region — and the whole state — competitive,” said Yablonsky.

Inaction, he said, would hurt transit not only in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh but in 67 counties. Transportation is “a core function of government,” he said.

“God help us if we don't do this and something happens,” said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat. The cost of fixing roads and bridges would double if lawmakers don't act now, DePasquale said, because such a bill would become off-limits in 2014, an election year.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said failing to act would mean “we're putting at risk job creation and young people moving to Allegheny County.”

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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