Increased User Fees: Key to Solving State’s Transportation Funding Crisis?
One message kept being echoed at yesterday’s PA House Transportation Committee hearing at DeSales University: the need to find new revenue sources for the gaping hole in the state’s transportation budget. Though most – if not all – of the testimonies touched on the fact that these are tough economic times (especially for governmental budgets), it was conceded that the state’s transportation system is essential to the well-being of the residents and workers of Pennsylvania. Those who provided testimonies at the hearing made it clear that our transportation network has a direct impact on the economic growth of our state — and many weren’t afraid to publicly support a tax increase (including a gas tax increase).
Armand Greco discussed LANTA’s recent fare increases, needed to ensure that the system can provide its basic level of service. Rep. Steve Samuelson made the appropriate comment that raising fares on public transportation means raising the cost of transportation for those who are most disadvantaged — noting that this notion makes no sense. RenewLV’s Steven Bliss agreed that this inequity in transportation had to be addressed and that RenewLV would keep advocating for a more balanced transportation network within the region.
One of the most salient testimonies came from a former civil engineering student who described her experience of trying to find internships and co-ops within the state’s transportation sector (specifically working on public transportation) and being unsuccessful at doing so. She stated that many of her fellow students found jobs in other states after graduation because Pennsylvania was unwilling to invest in a better transportation network and put these graduates to work. Her story shows that the transportation funding crisis will only further contribute to the already-troubling ‘brain drain’ in Pennsylvania.
Perhaps the most surprising disclosure came from the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has not been known to support tax increases in the past — but yesterday, Chamber representatives Peter Terry and Michelle Griffin-Young both stated that a reasonable increase in user fees might just be the solution to the funding crisis.
As budget deliberations continue in the state legislature, the idea for a gas tax increase will almost certainly remain in the dialogue. Do you support a fuel tax increase? If so, I would strongly suggest contacting your state Representative or Senator to let him or her know so. Or call your legislator to offer your suggestions on what could fill the hole in the transportation budget.
To get more details about yesterday’s hearing, check out the Morning Call’s article about the hearing, as well as WFMZ/Channel 69’s coverage. Also, check out RenewLV’s testimony, delivered by Steven Bliss at yesterday’s hearing.