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Politics & Government

House Struggles with Transportation Funding

When it comes to money for fixing roads, bridges and mass transit, state House lawmakers are struggling to even get a plan out of committee.

What's clear is House Republican leaders want a transportation infrastructure funding plan that spends less than the $2.5 billion the Senate proposed. What's not clear is how they'll make the bill palatable to enough Republicans and Democrats to pass the bill out of committee, let alone the full chamber.

"Once we get past the committee vote, we can talk with the different members — what their concerns are, whether they can or cannot support the package," said Transportation Committee Chairman Dick Hess (R-Bedford). "But the main thrust right now is to get a package that we can get together and get it out of committee."

One of the items at issue is funding for mass transit. But it's not an exclusively Democratic issue, as Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) pointed out Tuesday.

"Mass transit can't be a secondary thought in this bill," Vereb said. "Mass transit has to be one of the primary thoughts."

Another sticking point is the proposed repeal of the state's prevailing wage law, which requires certain state public works projects to pay wages that tend to line up with union pay. Some Republicans say they'll insist on the repeal to make sure dollars for transportation can be stretched further. Democrats say it's a non-starter.

"We've said it from day one: these were the conditions for us to discuss the issue with them," said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody. "They know that. This is incredible they're coming up with this with one week to go and it's the first we've heard of it. Is it in the Senate plan?"

The wage issue is not in the Senate plan, and the Corbett administration has signaled to keep it out of the transportation funding bill.

Twice, now, the House Transportation panel has canceled scheduled votes on a funding proposal. The committee chairman said if the bill is going to go to the governor, it can't happen later than Wednesday.