The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

July 29, 2011

Drivers may bear costs of repairing Pa. infrastructure

Associated Press

July 28 —

It is no secret Pennsylvania's roads and bridges are in disrepair and access to transportation falls short of state needs. But no one could have guessed the course the "no new taxes" governor might take to find the money to repair a deteriorating infrastructure and transportation system.

The Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, a 40-member panel convened by Gov. Tom Corbett, announced its recommendations last week for raising about $2.7 billion a year for highways and transit.

Technically the commission, at the governor's direction, did not consider an increase in the gasoline tax at the pumps — remember "no new taxes."'

But the commission did recommend lifting a cap on the tax on wholesale gasoline and diesel fuel. And who would pay for those increases if the cap is lifted? The same Pennsylvania residents who would pay for further recommendations by the commission — higher vehicle fees, including license renewals and registrations — to adjust them for inflation.

Commission Chairman Barry Schoch, the state transportation secretary, decided the increases are modest and are needed to correct the Commonwealth's infrastructure woes.

Schoch said by the fifth year, the weekly cost to a typical driver would be an estimated $2.54. "That's less than the price of a gallon of gas to make a substantial upgrade to our transportation network," he said.

The typical motorist Schoch used to figure that cost increase is the owner of one car with average fuel economy who drives only 12,000 miles per year. That state car owner would pay $36 more for fuel in the first year and $132 more by the fifth year, when all elements of the proposal would be implemented. That figure doesn't count possible new registration and license fees.

Truck drivers who use the roads to move product around the state would pay more than $500 per year for each tractor-trailer.

The path this administration has chosen is clear. The state budget was balanced with, among other items, education cuts. While state taxes remained stable, the cost to support public schools was then placed squarely on the backs of homeowners, who saw school tax increases on their properties.

Budget cuts to state colleges will be borne by parents or by college loans students need to meet the higher cost of higher education.

Now, roads and bridges need to be repaired. Infrastructure costs were also reduced to balance the 2011 state budget. If the administration follows the recommendations of the governor-appointed panel, motorists will pay more to make up that difference. As far as the additional burden on truckers, who will bear the burden of their increased costs? Consumers purchasing the supplies they transport.

The "no tax increase" budget proclaimed from the halls of Harrisburg is no more than a tax shift, from state payments to local payments and now, perhaps, to local drivers and working truckers.

"No new taxes" seems to apply only to Marcellus Shale drillers, who at this time do not have to pay anything to repair damage to roads upstate.

— Journal Register News Service:

The Delaware County Daily Times