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Transportation Bill's Author Severs Ties with Senate Dems on Liquor

The long-awaited legislative follow-up to the governor’s own transportation funding plan is expected to be announced Tuesday.

Transportation Committee Republican Chair John Rafferty has been working on the issue for months, insisting that it won’t be a victim of what legislators refer to as linkage – trading votes on one issue for support on another.

But things are heating up enough that, just in case linkage poses a threat to the transportation bill, Rafferty opted to withdraw his official support from a Senate Democrat’s measure to change (“modernize”) how the state wine and spirits stores are operated.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny), is a counter-proposal to the liquor privatization plan that would aim to shut down the stores by phasing them out of existence. With 26 listed Senate co-sponsors, it appeared to be a threat to the Corbett administration’s agenda.

But Rafferty recently removed his own name from the list.

“It’s off,” the Montgomery County lawmaker said Monday afternoon. “I’m keeping an open mind on everything.”

The move sheds light on the politics of transportation funding and liquor privatization, both of which are top priorities for the governor’s office. Rafferty’s withdrawal of public support for the liquor modernization plan is a show of good faith to the Corbett administration, and it might be one more way to help along a transportation funding package.

“If I’m trying to resolve an issue, I don’t want to be linked to anything,” Rafferty said.

He’s made no secret of the fact that he hopes to generate more revenue than the governor has proposed by increasing driver’s license and vehicle registration fees. The added hike in fees would come in addition to Corbett’s proposal to remove the cap on a wholesale gas tax paid by gas stations.

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