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State Transportation Funding Bill Chugs Along

A $2.5 billion transportation funding bill that would increase vehicle fees, moving violation fines, and lift the cap on a tax that could lead to higher gas prices has gained a key state Senate committee’s approval.

Money raised from the measure would be used to repair Pennsylvania’s aging roads and bridges, as well as mass transit, ports, and bicycle lane planning.

“We’re sending our message forth that we want to see transportation on the front burner along with the budget, along with some of the other issues facing us here,” said Sen. John Rafferty (R-Montgomery), who chairs the transportation panel. “But we cannot overlook our need to provide for the people of Pennsylvania a core function of government, providing safe transportation.”

Rafferty said he hopes to have his measure voted on by the full Senate in the first or second week of June. But that means the House would only have a couple of weeks to approve it if the package is going to be made law along with the state budget.

The proposal, which received the votes of all but one member of the Senate Transportation Committee, would generate about $700 million more than an earlier plan offered by the governor.

The panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. John Wozniak (Cambria) thanked the governor for first proposing a way to pay for repairs to the state’s ailing roads and bridges.

Wozniak pointed out some might call the plan a violation of the Grover Norquist no-tax pledge signed by Gov. Tom Corbett.

“He has put the needs of Pennsylvania in front of the wants of Grover Norquist," Wozniak said. “I hope there is going to be a number of members in the chamber on the other side of this Capitol that follow in his footsteps.”

Rafferty said he hopes to see the bill voted by the full Senate in the first or second week of June. But that leaves just two or three weeks for the House to approve it before the summer recess, and (as Wozniak noted) House lawmakers have been far less enthusiastic about the proposal.