Recently, the Pennsylvania House Infrastructure Transportation Task Force, chaired by Rep. Martina White (R-Phila), revealed its findings of the status of Pennsylvania’s transportation system and its current funding mechanisms. The announcement followed a Grow PA gathering at the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry with Rep. White where attendees discussed the task force’s efforts and the report findings.
The task force’s report concluded that shortfalls in funding for transportation were substantial, including the shortages caused by the diversion of Motor License Fund revenue to the Pennsylvania State Police budget total $4.5 billion since 2012-13.
Other report findings included:
- The gas tax increase passed in 2013 is failing to meet revenue projections due in part to an increase in more fuel-efficient vehicles, like hybrids and electric models.
- Act 44 of 2007 required the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to provide PennDOT with $450 million annually for transportation capital needs. This forced the Turnpike to debt finance these payments leading to additional toll increases for 11 straight years and increased debt, now at $13 billion.
- In July 2022, the turnpike’s $450 million annual obligation to PennDOT will drop to $50 million per year until 2057 creating a large funding gap in the General Fund.
- There are approximately 25,000 state-owned bridges in Pennsylvania, of which 23% are considered structurally deficient bridges that are safe to travel across, but at the end of their useful life.
- Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are among the top 10 most congested cities in the U.S. In 2018. Philadelphia’s growing traffic congestion costs bus and car passengers $152 million in annual time and transportation costs. Specifically, the task force recommended:
- Expediting the transfer of state police funding to a General Fund obligation.
- Giving counties and regions the ability to consider local solutions. Act 89 authorized local counties to impose a $5 additional vehicle registration fee to fund local transportation projects.
- Consolidating the private sector permitting process for large projects to improve efficiencies to repair hundreds of roads and bridges simultaneously.
- Providing PennDOT with the explicit authority it needs to implement the design-build method for certain sized projects, such as those larger than $100 million.
Read the task force report and see the bills for implementing the report’s recommendations.
IFO Releases Budget Update
When lawmakers return next year, they will begin working on an FY2020-21 state budget. According to a recently released report by the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office (IFO), state legislators will once again have to decide how to fill the gap between projected revenues and expenditures. While the Commonwealth’s General Fund revenue collections are $164 million ahead of estimates, expenditures are expected to increase by 4.8 percent.
According to the IFO report, FY2019-20 expenditures will total $34.778 billion, which is $781 million more than the $33.997 billion lawmakers estimated in June.
Of those expenditures, the IFO indicates $1.06 billion is due to potential supplemental appropriations, including $779 million estimated by the Wolf administration on Oct. 31, an additional $79 million for Lottery-funded Department of Human Services (DHS) programs, and $200 million to cover the possible failure of yet another attempt to transfer $200 million from the reserves of the Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association (JUA).
The IFO report identifies several additional items contributing to the growth in expenditures, including:
- A $67 million reduction in Lottery and Tobacco Settlement funds available to cover DHS program costs in FY 2020-21 compared to the enacted levels in FY 2019-20;
- A $183 million spending increase due to the reduction in Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) applied in FY2020-21 relating to MA expansion and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
- The $198 million increase in the appropriation for school construction and facilities reimbursement costs (known as PlanCon), with bond proceeds were used to cover these costs in FY2019-20;
- The $55 million additional increase in Pennsylvania State Police (PSP)expenses resulting from the cap on PSP costs paid from the MLF under Act 85 of 2016.
For a full listing of Grow PA’s legislative agenda, please visit Grow-PA.com.