To be competitive, Pennsylvania must improve and sustain its infrastructure as well as the innovations supporting our infrastructure industry. Infrastructure innovations remain a fast-growing segment of the Pennsylvania economy. Plus, employers rely on roads and rail to get raw materials in and finished goods out to market. Employees need roads, bridges, and mass transit systems to get to their jobs so they can earn a living. Telecommunications and broadband access are essential to the economic growth of Pennsylvania. Portions of the Commonwealth remain woefully underserved and are cut-off from the economic power of the Internet. All of us depend on water and sewer systems to operate effectively every day.
In April of 2011, Governor Corbett established the Transportation Funding Advisory Board (TFAC) which was charged with examining PA's transportation infrastructure and developing a comprehensive plan to address PA's aging infrastructure. The TFAC, chaired by State Secretary of Transportation, Barry Schoch, released its findings in August 2011.
Pennsylvania’s business community recommends the following steps:
TFAC INFRASTRUCTURE RECOMMENDATIONS
On November 1st, 2011, Senator Jake Corman introduced a three-bill package enacting the recommendations of the TFAC.
SB 4: Amends Title 75 (Vehicles) of the PA Consolidated Statutes to adjust various fees paid into the Motor Vehicle License fund,
SB 1326: Amends Titles 74 (Transportation) and Title 75 (Vehicles) making changes to various vehicle-related fees pursuant to the TFAC report.
SB 1327: Amends Titles 74 (Transportation) and Title 75 (Vehicles) providing for distribution of funds pursuant to the TFAC recommendations.
Facilitate Investment in Infrastructure
Make Pennsylvania more attractive to investment in infrastructure. Encourage greater private investment in improvements to our natural gas, electricity, water, sewer, rail freight, road, and telecommunications systems by removing regulatory hurdles and providing long-term regulatory certainty. Enact enabling legislation for public-private partnerships (P3s) – especially for adding additional capacity to current systems.
Raise the Cap on the Oil Company Franchise Tax
To provide additional revenues for much needed infrastructure maintenance, the current cap of $1.25 should be raised, with inflationary adjustments thereafter. This would raise $500 million per year, with growth to accommodate inflation.
Find a Replacement for the Failing Gas Tax
Gas-tax revenues are declining and will continue to do so as government policy and consumer preferences move drivers to more fuel efficient vehicles. Gas consumption has been used as a proxy for road use in an attempt to create an equitable “user-fee” revenue stream. Alternatives, such as a Vehicle Miles Tax, increased fees, public-private partnerships, and tolls should be studied and considered.
Transition State Police Funding Back to State General Fund
Three-quarters of the State Police budget now comes from the fund that was created to pay for highway projects. To reduce the strain an immediate switch would impose on the General Fund, cap State Police funding provided from the Motor License Fund and begin shifting the responsibility back toward the General Fund over a period of a few years.
SB 471: Transitions State Police funding out of Motor License Fund
If Permitted by Congress, use Interstate Tolls Exclusively for Maintenance of Primary Roads
Pennsylvania’s business community recognizes that a toll on drivers of a particular road is a user fee, and is therefore the most equitable funding mechanism for that infrastructure improvement. Should federal law be amended to permit state tolling of Interstate highways, Pennsylvania’s business community would support the modest tolling of these primary roads as a statewide and equitable solution, provided that the toll revenues are restricting to use for maintenance of those roads. This would free gas tax revenues for the secondary roads and mass transit – effectively increasing that funding without rate hikes.
End Prevailing Wage
End the prevailing wage laws that force Pennsylvania taxpayers to pay inflated Philadelphia wages to builders and laborers on public construction projects. The Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Law applies to all public works projects including roads, bridges, public sewers and waterlines and, in a recent development, any project that received economic development assistance from the state. The estimated inflation of labor costs on public projects is five percent to 30 percent.
Support an I-81 Freight Rail Corridor
Provide full and immediate matching state funding for the Crescent Corridor, which is vital to the Interstate 81 truck corridor. Rail freight can remove long-haul trucks from this highway corridor reducing congestion and wear and tear on the roadbed. Rail freight is a cost-effective alternative to increased highway capacity.
Fund the Approved Rail Projects
Expedite approved state budget appropriations for existing rail and rail-freight projects.
Modernize Rail Freight for Economic Success
Support rail modernization efforts. With more than 5,145 miles of rail operated by 69 rail-freight companies, Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of rail shippers in the nation. Since nearly 45 percent of the nation’s population is located within six hours of the state, Pennsylvania is a critical keystone in the nation’s shipping and distribution infrastructure, and a vital component of our national homeland security system.
Expedite Approved Mass Transit Maintenance Work
Expedite approved state budget appropriations for mass transit-related bridge repairs and construction. Work to secure full funding for repairing existing mass transit infrastructure before authorizing funding for new system start-ups.
Leverage Broadband Deployment in Public Right of Ways
Adhere to and support rules and laws that allow industry-standard communication services equipment to be installed during all infrastructure construction projects such as highway or rail improvements. Support laws and regulations that allow for government property and rights-of-way to be used for communications infrastructure projects. The extension of broadband services to every community in the state must be a top priority if Pennsylvania is to successfully compete in the global information age.
PA Competitiveness with Sen. Mike Regan
The goal of Pennsylvania policymakers should be to make it the smart business decision for employers to locate, expand, and hire here in this commonwealth rather than in one of our competitor states. Likewise, the goal of federal policymakers ought to be to optimize conditions for economic growth in the United States so American businesses can compete worldwide. This means we must restrain state spending, enact pro-growth business tax relief, provide limits on lawsuit abuse, improve the regulatory climate, and ensure we have a trained workforce. Our state government cannot tax-and-spend the way to good fortune for all; but we can grow the private sector by attracting new business investments and expanding the tax base, then prosperity will surely follow.
PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNMENT 101
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