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The Pennsylvania Senate has given its final passage to the proposed .4 billion state transportation funding package.A traffic-tie-up on Interstate 83 in York County of the type that supporters hope a new transportation funding plan will help alleviate. The bill is now one House vote away from Gov. Tom Corbett's signature.Photo provided
The Senate s sets the stage for a last ratification by the House of Representatives, anticipated for Thursday, after which the bill is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett.
Corbett, anticipating what could be his biggest legislative win to date, issued a statement after Wednesday's vote applauding senators "who showed the courage necessary to set Pennsylvania on a future path unmarred by poor bridges, rough roads and failing mass transit.
The bill sets in motion a series of fuel tax,
But most of the money will come from an increase in wholesale fuel purchases that, after five years, will have the potential to add a net 28 cents to the price of a gallon of gas, assuming those costs get passed on to the consumer.
Proponents - who argue the state's current .8 billion annual investment in transportation systems has been outstripped in recent years by rising construction costs and mounting needs - say the cost is worth it.
The funding plan will, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman noted, reduce the need to put weight restrictions on bridges, forcing detours that cost time and money to businesses and motorists.
It will permit highway safety upgrades like the widening of a two-lane stretch of Route 322 between Potters Mills and Boalsburg, along the main corridor to State College.
And it will help keep cash-strapped mass transit lines from devastating service cuts.
Do you want to pay for the deterioration of our system, which we re going to do? asked Corman a Republican from Centre County. Or do you want to pay for upgrades?... This is a great investment in ourselves.
Sen. John Wozniak of Cambria County and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Transportation Committee, cited advocates projections of tens of thousands of construction jobs in the offing.
This is our economic stimulus, package," Wozniak said. "This is our job creator. This is how we bring people back to Pennsylvania.
Here's a glimpse at what the bill would fund statewide after the five-year ramp-up:
Adds .8 billion in new funding annually for bridge repairs and replacements, and highway projects.
State Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch noted the bill will result in an uptick in projects as early as next construction season, since his engineers have been building an inventory of projects in anticipation of the funding plan.
Adds 0 million per year in new funding to public transit agencies -- with more than 90 percent of that funding going to the mass transit systems in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the state's two largest.
Creates a 4 million annual funding stream for so-called "multi-modal" projects including everything from airports and railroads to bike paths or town-center pedestrian safety improvements.
For more detail on how that funding grows,
The day was not without drama.
Before the final passage vote, Democrats voted as a bloc against the amendment embedding the final package inciting
The sole change to that law, which sets minimum pay standards for public works jobs, is minor and will apply mostly to small road projects commissioned by municipalities. The cost threshold triggering the requirement will move from ,000 to 0,000.
But it was the idea of chipping away at the prevailing wage law, a sacred cow for organized labor, that Senate Democrats were angry about.
This is why people are sick of Harrisburg, said Sen. Michael Stack, D-Philadelphia. Why can t we just pass legislation that solves the problem we re dealing with instead of trying to sneak other issues in?
Senate Republicans were unmoved, recognizing that without the prevailing wage change they would likely lose critical support for the bill in the House were the package passed 104-95 Tuesday night.
The amendment barely passed, 26-24, with all Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Scott Hutchinson, a fiscal conservative from Venango County, voting no.
GOP floor leaders then used procedural steps to block attempts from the Democrats to offer a follow-up amendment that would have stripped out the prevailing wage change.
But once that fight was had, it was fairly clear that the bill was on a glide path to passage in the chamber that, earlier this year, voted 45-5 for a similar, .5 billion transportation package.
As Wozniak put it: If you play poker, there are four excellent cards in this hand, and then there s one that I think a lot of people don t like But the greater good is of the most importance here.
All midstate senators voted for the bill on final passage expect Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin County, who cited the linkage of the prevailing wage change, a bill that has been unable to pass on its own, to what he sees as a very necessary transportation funding bill.
Teplitz called that bad government that he did not want to support.
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