The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

June 30, 2013

House Republicans can't seal transportation deal

Rural reps, Dems won't go for tax hike

HARRISBURG — Saturday afternoon, Rep. Fred Keller said that he was studying the language in a multi-billion dollar transportation funding plan to determine if he would vote for it.

His decision would not necessarily be swayed by the fact that the measure could provide the money to pay for a Thruway in his district that constituents have been waiting 40 years to see built, Keller, R-Union County said.

“I am man of integrity,” he said. “I can’t be bought for $1 or $558 million.”

House Democrats may have saved him the trouble of making that vote of integrity by torpedoing the transportation plan.

House Republican leaders Saturday night conceded that they don’t have the votes to move on the bill, just two days before the end of the fiscal year.

Republicans blamed a boycott by Democrats who refused to back the bill. But the measure’s success had always depended on a fragile bipartisan coalition. There has been resistance to the plan from rural lawmakers in both parties over the plan’s use of a gas tax increase. Urban Democrats have complained that the House version of the transportation plan would not spend enough on mass transit.

When the House transportation committee approved the transportation bill, only three Democrats voted in favor of it.  State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer County, was among those who voted against the plan. Longietti has said he opposed the plan because he could see no benefit for his district that justified the cost.

“Auto drivers already subsidize mass transit users by about $1 billion a year and I am not going to vote to increase that by hundreds of millions more,” said Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford County. “I am not going to vote to cause gasoline prices to go up 28 cents per gallon.”

Roae is part of a revolt that forced the Republican leadership to turn to Democrats for help.

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