May 22, 2012 | By | Posted in General News

Lawmakers, administraton at odds over when to talk PA transporation

Dems call for special session
By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Democrats and Republicans agree. Something must be done to address the fragile, aging infrastructure of Pennsylvania’s transportation system.

They just can’t seem to agree on when.  
On Tuesday, state Sen. Mike Stack, D-Philadelphia, proposed that the Legislature hold a special session to address transportation infrastructure improvement and funding.
“Every day that we put off funding a long-term solution for this crisis, we’re missing an opportunity to boost our economy and create jobs,” Stack said, “and we’re also playing a dangerous game with the safety of our motorists and our pedestrians.”
The Pennsylvania Transportation Advisory Committee, an administration-created committee, released a report last summer detailing the crux of the problem and suggested improvements. Other than a smattering of pending legislative actions, the plan has yet to be realized.
One-fifth of state-maintained roads and one-fourth of bridges remain in disrepair.
Only the governor can convene a special session even if the General Assembly requests one formally with support from two-thirds of the House and Senate.
The Republican leadership, however, opposes a special session. Because the GOP dominates both chambers, it’s unclear whether Stack and his fellow Democrats can garner enough support to merit a request.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said the transportation issue could be addressed during the regular session before a “lame duck” session kicks in after the November election.
But finding the time is crucial given the web of complexities a transportation overhaul could bring.
“It is a process that takes a fair amount of time and requires an extensive amount of preparation with the administration,” Pileggi said, “so there needs to be a sufficient block of time available to successfully handle a transportation funding bill.”
Kelli Roberts, a spokeswoman with Gov. Tom Corbett’s office, said if the Legislature voted to have a special session, the administration would agree to hear out the legislators.
But a transportation overhaul, the administration has said, remains unlikely until the economy sees a substantial recovery. Roberts said that Corbett doesn’t want to put the financial burden of the overhaul on the backs of the taxpaying citizenry, especially as gas prices soar.
Until then, efficiency changes in the Department of Transportation, like increasing the registration period from one year to two years, are the short-term recommendations that can be instituted.
The changes involving billions of dollars in steel, pavement and oil will have to wait.
“There’s multiple suggestions out there, and a good many of them will reflect in taxes, and we are not going to raise taxes on Pennsylvanians,” Roberts said.
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