Pa. auditor general DePasquale warns of 'red flags' in state's road bill
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said if the state's $2.3 billion transportation infrastructure plan doesn't direct spending to neglected bridges and critical infrastructure needs, it would raise “red flags” in his office.
“If we're doing this package and the structurally deficient bridges aren't the first ones getting the money, OK, something's wrong,” DePasquale said.
DePasquale, a Pittsburgh native and former York County legislator, discussed his year in office and some upcoming audits in an interview with Tribune-Review reporters and editors on Thursday.
Legislation that Gov. Tom Corbett signed in November authorizes up to $2.3 billion in annual transportation spending, ending months of legislative debate. DePasquale said he advocated to end $450 million in yearly payments from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to the state, to ease debt and future toll increases. The transportation plan cuts those payments to $50 million in 2021, PennDOT officials said.
Those contributions, and motorist fees paid to PennDOT, will go toward millions of dollars in improvements to public transportation agencies, including Port Authority of Allegheny County. DePasquale said his office is auditing the agency and he anticipates releasing a report in February.
“If it wasn't for this transportation bill, they were going to have a major problem come January,” he said.
Jim Ritchie, spokesman for Port Authority, said specific figures are not available, but the investments will improve services for riders.
“The legislation will provide service stability for several years and allow Port Authority to think strategically about transit service,” he said in an email.
The bill allocates $40 million for general transportation projects to be determined by the Commonwealth Financing Authority, a state board that includes legislative appointees. Critics consider that money to be akin to “walking around money” to pay for legislative pet projects.
“It gives flexibility to address whatever those regional needs might be, but they are transportation-related,” said Erin Waters-Trasatt, a PennDOT spokeswoman.
DePasquale said he'll be vigilant about that, as well.
“We're certainly going to be monitoring that to make sure those go to appropriate transportation projects,” he said.
As auditor general, DePasquale can decide which state agencies and programs to audit, and conduct mandatory audits at some institutions such as school districts. In early 2014, he anticipates releasing his audit of Department of Environmental Protection water quality controls connected to shale-gas extraction. He'll conduct an audit of some of the state's tax credit and grant programs.
DePasquale, who succeeded former Pittsburgh mayoral candidate and two-term Auditor General Jack Wagner, received a $1.7 million bump in the state budget last year to update technology and equipment. He said the upgrade produced faster audits.
The technology improvements will continue next year, with a system to accept complaints online instead of through a hotline.
State government overall could use similar upgrades, DePasquale said.
“Just by the minimal investment we've made in technology, it's dramatically improving,” he said.
Melissa Daniels is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8511 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.
- Most heavy drinkers aren’t alcoholics, CDC determines, reversing long-held belief
- Snow traps Niagara University women’s hoops team on bus for 26 hours
- Bureau of Building Inspection’s split from Pittsburgh city agency debated
- Pittsburgh police beef up presence on streets for city’s Light Up Night
- Baltimore man killed in McKeesport crash
- Carrick man struck by dump truck dies; woman critically injured
- Youngsters embrace technology that combines art, software in 3D printing
- Former FBI director Mueller: Home hacks called on par with globals
- Newsmaker: Mark Roberts
- Newsmaker: Brett Walter
- Erie VA chief denies hiding information on waiting list, Legionnaires’ while in Pittsburgh