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Legislative leaders will call for vote next week on transportation bill

| Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 6:51 p.m.

HARRISBURG — House and Senate Republican leaders plan a vote next week on a plan to raise an estimated $2.3 billion to fix roads and bridges and to bolster mass transit.

It's one of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's priorities, but attempts to round up enough votes in the GOP-controlled House since June fell short. The only House votes have been head counts behind closed doors.

Stephen Miskin, a House Republican spokesman, said Thursday that Speaker Sam Smith of Punxsutawney and Majority Leader Mike Turzai of Bradford Woods agree it is time to vote on the bill and move on to other issues.

Usually, leaders don't call up a bill unless they know of 102 votes for passage. Leaders of both parties and Corbett have been negotiating the issue.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi of Delaware County believes “it's time to bring this to a head,” said his spokesman, Erik Arneson. Even if the House lacks votes for passage, Pileggi thinks it's time to move on, Arneson said.

There's a “framework” to draft into legislation but “no handshake deal,” Miskin said.

“It's our expectation that they'll put together a plan and vote it,” said Jay Pagni, the governor's spokesman. Corbett remains hopeful that lawmakers will propose a “comprehensive, bipartisan package.”

Turzai planned votes on the matter several times since September. Corbett asked him to wait, Turzai has said.

Now, said Miskin, “If it's not this (next) week, we don't expect it to come up.”

Passage will require House Democrats' support because some House Republicans consider the funding mechanism a tax increase.

Miskin confirmed that the plan still includes lifting the cap on the state's wholesale fuel tax, which likely means passing the cost on to consumers at gasoline pumps.

Any bill considered will include language that provides for some wage-reduction on certain public projects that require union wage scales, Miskin said. Republicans have insisted that so-called prevailing wage reform be part of a transportation package.

Corbett in February proposed a $1.8 billion bill. The Senate approved a $2.5 billion plan in June.

Turzai is expected to offer an amendment for “critical needs” spending on the worst-condition bridges.

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

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