Pay Now or Pay Later

Legislators are now studying whether to allow private investment in the highway system due to funding gaps at PennDOT.  Debates at the Transportation Funding and Reform Commission hearings that have taken place around the state on the idea. It is a veritable pay now or pay later scenario playing out.

Even the “father” of Interstate 99, former US Representative Bud Shuster, chimed in by saying “billions and billions of dollars can be raised by public-private partnerships” on transportation projects.  One of which he cited is the Mon-Fayette Expressway which is $2 billion short of funding.

The commission is due to issue a report on November 15 recommending new taxes or increases in existing ones. Ones targeted for increases are the 6% sales tax, 31.5¢/gallon gasoline tax, or the $36/year vehicle registration fee.  The new revenue would go towards improving highways and the 47% structurally deficient bridges across the Commonwealth. Money would also go towards PAT in Pittsburgh and SEPTA in Philadelphia.

I am for the private investment if it means improving the highway system, but not for the taxes.  The base state sales tax has been 6% since the early 1970s, and doesn’t cover food nor clothing! The gasoline tax is already one of the highest in the country. Even though gas prices are low as of this blog entry, it doesn’t mean prices will continue to stay low.  The vehicle registration fee should be on a scale depending on the weight of the vehicle. It is similar to how the Turnpike Commission calculates tolls.  The more your vehicle weighs, the more your registration. That seems only fair.  An SUV puts a greater strain on the highways, due to its weight, than a motorcycle.

More toll plazas like the Hempfield Toll Plaza on PA Turnpike 66 could appear under a pay now or pay later scenario.
More toll plazas could appear under a pay now or pay later scenario

Maybe the judges who repealed the legislature’s pay raise, but upheld their own pay raise, will donate a portion back to PennDOT so we don’t have to worry.  Although, without improvements, they’ll be earning those raises hearing lawsuits from families of those who died in bridge collapses.

Lawmakers Study Private Investment For Roads – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette