APC Proposes Short-Term Funding Solutions at House Transportation Committee Hearing.
As reported in past editions of This Week in the Capitol, APC’s Bob Latham testified before a House Transportation Committee hearing on the recently proposed PennDOT P3 Bridge Tolling Initiative. Latham did address the industry’s concerns regarding the P3 financing mechanism, but took the opportunity to walk the committee members through the short- and long-term funding challenges facing PennDOT’s highway construction program. Latham reminded legislators of the short-term issue is the need to fix the current dearth of lettings in 2020 and 2021. Latham proposed to use federal COVID relief funds to immediately increase lettings by $1.3 billion;  $300 billion to move the current year’s program to $2.2 billion and another $1 billion PennDOT “Stimulus”.

APC noted that currently over $700 million annually is being diverted from the state’s highway fund—or Motor License Fund—to other non-highway construction related functions such as State Police operations. This represents over 11 cents per gallon in fuel taxes that are going to other purposes other than the state’s highway construction and maintenance program. Latham pointed out that the amount diverted since the passage of Act 89 alone has been an alarming $5.2 billion.  Latham recommended that practice end now and that money can be used to pay for critical bridges and other projects.

Latham was  joined by Trumbull executive George Mezey who helped answer specific questions regarding the P3 financing model and shared experiences from other states. You can view a copy of APC’s full testimony here.

Time to get out the crayons.
One of the more politically motivated events silently began this week with the establishment of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission. This commission is established every 10 years following the national Census and is charged with re-drawing the state’s 253 legislative and senatorial district boundaries to reflect the new census data and population shifts. The commission is made up of the majority and minority leaders of both chambers and a general “fifth member” is agree upon by those four lawmakers and serves as the commission chairperson. If they can’t agree to the fifth person, then the PA Supreme Court appoints that person. This year’s commission consists of House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre), House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia), Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny). The commission now has 45 days to select its fifth member before the state Supreme Court intervenes.

This highly political process is worth noting because the eventual shape of the districts will influence the balance of power for the next decade.