State GOP, Dem committee leaders favor increase in motorist fees
HARRISBURG — The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Transportation Committee said Tuesday they favor adding $1 billion to the $1.8 billion road, bridge and transit plan the Corbett administration proposed.
Chairman John Rafferty, a GOP senator from suburban Philadelphia, said raising registration and drivers' license fees is “under very serious consideration.”
There also is a plan to raise motor vehicle fines on infractions from speeding to running stop signs, Rafferty said.
But those measures combined would not produce $1 billion, Rafferty acknowledged, and lawmakers are considering other measures. He declined to disclose what else is under review.
Increases in registration and license fees would restore some revenue lost through inflation, since the fees haven't increased since 1997, Rafferty said.
Asked if he supports adding $1 billion more, Sen. John Wozniak, of Cambria County, ranking Democrat on the transportation committee, said, ”I do.”
But Wozniak said it will be “tough enough” for lawmakers to pass the $1.8 billion plan Gov. Tom Corbett proposed. That plan relies on lifting the cap on the wholesale tax on gas sold to gas stations.
Corbett's Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch said the administration is willing to work “collectively” with the Legislature on the right mix of revenues. However, he said he's already read comments that the governor's plan is “too low or too high.”
Schoch said it's virtually impossible to tell how lifting the wholesale tax cap will affect prices at the pump because prices fluctuate depending on the market. “We don't know and probably never will know the effect on retail prices,” he said.
The Pennsylvania Highway Information Association said lifting the cap might mean about a nickel-per-gallon increase each year over five years if all the increase passes on to consumers.
But Corbett also proposed cuts in the state liquid fuels tax that amounts to 1 cent per gallon less in each of the next two years.
Sen. Rich Alloway, R-Franklin County, said of the governor's overall package, “If we are going to take a bite of the apple, I'd like to take as big of a bite of the apple as we possibly can.”
“I am having a difficult time getting excited about this,” said Sen. Don White, R-Indiana County. It amounts to kicking the can down the road, said White.
Rafferty said legislation proposing adding more revenue to the governor's plan will be introduced in mid-March to early April after budget hearings.
Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 and firstname.lastname@example.org.