ShareThis Page

State House approves $2.3 billion transportation package

| Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, 2:42 p.m.
Port Authority of Allegheny County gets about a 22 percent share of the statewide funding for transit.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald implored lawmakers from the Pittsburgh region who voted against a $2.3 billion transportation plan to reconsider their votes for the sake of the region’s economy.

HARRISBURG — Less than 24 hours after defeating a comprehensive transportation plan, the state House on Tuesday approved the $2.3 billion package for fixing Pennsylvania's deteriorating bridges and roads.

The same plan was voted down twice Monday night, once by as much as 112-89. But after a day of intense lobbying, the package that will raise gas taxes at the pumps passed 104-95.

The amendment by House Transportation Chairman Nicholas Micozzi, R-Delaware County, would spend $1.65 billion per year for highways and bridges, and as much as $497 million for mass transit.

It relies primarily on increasing wholesale gas taxes that Micozzi said would be passed on to consumers at a cost of about a nickel per gallon over five years. It would increase vehicle registration and driver's license fees.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett pushed the package as a “core function” of government for safe travel and to establish jobs. He said the “House of Representatives made a dramatic choice to invest in the future of Pennsylvania. In doing so, they have set the stage for the safety of our children and the economic prosperity for Pennsylvania.

“Voting for a comprehensive transportation plan will keep our transportation system safe and efficient, improve the state's economy, and improve the quality of life for our 12 million-plus residents,” the governor said.

But Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, an opponent, said after defeating it twice, “We're here to take the taxpayers to the cleaners.”

Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Delmont, asked rhetorically, “What if we don't get the ‘right' decision again, will we be asked to vote it the fourth time?

“This has not been a fair fight,” he said.

Voters will see it was pushed through after twice being defeated, he said.

The outlook was positive for Senate approval. The Senate approved a $2.5 billion bill in June.

“We congratulate the House for taking this important step,” Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson said. “(Wednesday) morning, we will caucus on what was approved by the House tonight and proceed from there. That said, what the House approved appears to be fairly close to what a strong bipartisan majority of the Senate approved in Senate Bill 1.”

Under House rules, the bill containing the Micozzi amendment cannot be approved before Wednesday. Then it would go the Senate.

But to speed things along, the Senate may insert identical language into a bill that can go back to the House for a straight up or down vote.

“Ideally, we get this done this week,” PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald earlier Tuesday said failure to pass a bill with transit funding would result in reducing routes for Port Authority in 2014, just as job growth revitalizes the region. “If we don't have transit funding, we'll lose that momentum,” he said in an interview.

Fitzgerald, a Democrat, appealed to lawmakers from both parties, who were divided as the House defeated a key transportation amendment late Monday.

Among the lawmakers who switched from a “no” vote to a “yes” vote: Rep. Nick Kotik, D-Coraopolis. He could not be reached.

Port Authority of Allegheny County gets about a 22 percent share of the statewide funding for transit.

“This is a vote for your constituents to get to and from work,” Fitzgerald told those who voted no.

Without transit funding, “We put at risk our local economy and the dynamism really occurring in Pittsburgh again,” he said.

But Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren County, said the state already spends $6.8 billion on transportation, She said she has constituents who drive long distances to work and can't afford the gas now, plus put food on the table,

“It took three votes and a lot of disregard for the middle class to move the legislation forward and the commonwealth backward,” said Rep. Pete Daley, D-Washington County.

In an effort to garner support among conservative Republicans, the measure contains language that takes a step toward reform of prevailing wage laws. Currently, state and local governments, particularly in urban areas, must pay union wages on non-union jobs on public projects. The current law extends an exemption to small projects under $25,000. That threshold would be raised to $100,000 under the Micozzie amendment.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.