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Development & Transportation

Conservative Think Tank: Corbett's Transportation Numbers Don't Add Up

When Governor Corbett released his proposed 2013-14 budget of $28.4 billion this month, it included a transportation investment plan.

The governor said that his five year initiative would total more than $5.3 billion--roughly an additional $250 million per year for mass transit in Pennsylvania.

But Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute, a conservative think tank, said the increased amounts don't add up.

“When you actually look at the budget documents, [transportation doesn’t] get to $200 million until year five-- and that’s about $215 million in year five-- so they’re a long way from $250 million.”

According to the Allegheny Institute’s analysis, the proposed appropriation for mass transit actually drops in the upcoming fiscal year, and significant increases are not projected until FY 2015-2016—the third year of the five year plan.

Corbett says revenue increases will come from the uncapping of the Oil Company Franchise Tax and the redirection of certain motor vehicle fees towards public transportation.

But Haulk questions with the reapportionment of these revenues towards mass transit, saying motor fuels taxes are “constitutionally not permitted to be used for purposes other than highways and bridges.  Unless there is a plan to shift fungible revenues to mass transit, the plan as proposed will probably not pass muster.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, revenues collected from the state’s Oil Franchise tax must be spent on highway maintenance and construction, a category that doesn’t include mass transit.

While the uncapping of the tax would increase revenue to the state, it could also raise costs of fuel in the state. Though the final number is hard to calculate, Haulk estimated the rise in fuel tax would cause the cost of gas to rise about a nickel per year.