PA Transportation funding bill fails – what does this mean for the future of Paoli Transit Center and Turnpike widening project?

Unfortunately, the clock just ran out for transportation funding in Pennsylvania, at least for the near future.  Late on Monday night, the proposed $2.4 billion PA transportation funding bill was narrowly defeated on the House floor.   The House legislators voted 98 – 103 against the bill, which would have provided new funding for much needed repairs on our roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems.  So close and yet so far away – what does this vote mean for the future of the Paoli Transit Center and the PA Turnpike widening projects in Tredyffrin?

Prior to the House vote on the transportation bill, a critical Op-Ed, ‘Warren Kampf – Too Extreme for Tredyffrin’ written by Tredyffrin Democratic Party Chair Dariel Jamieson appeared in Main Line Suburban.  The article focused on State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157) lack of support for the transportation bill, making a claim that Kampf took a ‘no tax’ pledge and that he [Kampf] is “standing in the way of job creation and prosperity.”

Kampf immediately responded to Jamieson’s criticism with his own Op-Ed, ‘Kampf Refutes Jamieson’s no tax increase pledge’ suggesting that she [Jamieson] needed to “stick to the facts, instead of creating her own” and stating that he never took a ‘no tax’ pledge.  Kampf restated that his opposition of the transportation-funding bill was a decision based on 60,000 of his constituents not wanting an increase in their gas prices to pay for the infrastructure improvements. Kampf separates his vote against the transportation funding bill from his support of local projects, claiming that he does support the Paoli Transit Center and the turnpike widening project.

In my opinion, the immediate future of the Paoli Transit Center was tied directly to the passage of transportation funding bill.  I understand there was no guarantee that the money would have come to Paoli if the bill had passed but clearly without this state funding the future of the project now looks bleak.  This is not a ‘doom and gloom’ forecast, more of a reality check. Money begets money – state funding was required for the transit center if the project was to receive federal funding.  I had heard that if the transportation bill failed, the transit center was not going to stay on SEPTA’s funding list.  So … where exactly is the funding going to come from for the transit center?  Tomorrow night is the third (and final) Paoli Transportation Open House, 4:30 – 8 PM at the Township Building.  In light of the defeated transportation bill, it will be curious to see how SEPTA representatives field funding questions at the Open House!

I think that the future of the PA turnpike widening and associated sound walls and storm water issues is more of a grey area.  Residents whose homes are located along the PA Turnpike have been working on storm water and sound wall issues for years. These issues have affected property values, saleability etc. The PA Turnpike Commission previously stated that if the transportation-funding bill was not passed, their Capital Plan would be reduced by removing major projects. It’s unclear if the turnpike’s construction project in Tredyffrin Township will stay on the front burner or now move to the back of the stove.

Without the House vote to approve transportation funding, when (or if) will the funding for the state’s infrastructure improvements resurface?  Once the momentum is lost, it is difficult to regain – since the funding was not approved in 2013, it’s highly unlikely that anything will happen during 2014 (election year).

In his response to Jamieson in Main Linen Suburban, Kampf reiterated his support of the Paoli Transit Center, but … how does he show his support for the project?  With the defeat of the transportation funding bill, Rep. Kampf is going to have many very unhappy Paoli business owners who were counting on state financial support through this transportation bill, now looking to him for answers. And if the PA Turnpike Commission removes the Tredyffrin section of the widening project from their ‘to do’ list, 4,000 local residents are not going to be pleased and will want someone to blame.

I may not personally agree with Rep. Kampf on his vote not to support the transportation funding bill, but I do give him credit for his unfaltering commitment.  He reported that he has 60,000 constituents who did not want him to support the transportation bill because it’s funding was tied to higher gas prices.  Wrong or right, he never wavered on the transportation funding bill and his vote reflected that decision.

Bottom line … without the approval of the transportation funding bill, the residents of Pennsylvania are left with deteriorating roads and bridges and an uncertain future for the Paoli Transit Center and the PA turnpike widening project.

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  1. My understanding is that the representatives who voted no did so based on objections to the proposed tax and fee increases. That’s fine. Presuming they believe maintaining our transportation infrastructure is in our interests – then have they proposed any alternative sources of funds?

    I have to think that the proposed increases (which were pretty shocking e.g. 27 cents per gallon – really?) would have been greatly reduced if our GOP led house and Governor would have been willing to impose even modestly higher excise taxes on energy companies who are busy exploiting the state’s natural gas resources. Its not like these companies can go elsewhere to extract our gas. All the while the activities of these drillers imposes real costs to the state including an increased need for transportation infrastructure maintenance and improvements.

    Education funding, social programs, and enforcement of environmental regulations have all been cut to the bone. Our Governor has also steadfastly refused federal healthcare dollars that might have freed up other state resources. Exactly what else do they want to cut? Or maybe they just don’t think a transportation bill would be good for jobs and our states economy?

    1. Thanks Paul, my sentiments exactly.

      I actually left a voice mail for Rep Kampf this morning, pointing out that every time I walk over the tracks on Valley Road, I can see through to the tracks in a few spots. I worry that, at some point, something very awful is going to happen on that bridge.

      I know our rep is great at saying no, but how about sponsoring a bill that takes care of very real and very pressing safety issues related to the deplorable condition of our bridges? I hope Rep Kampf doesn’t continue to just be in office to say “no” and finds a way to actually solve problems.

    1. Rep. Kampf stated that the transportation funding bill as presented would have equated to a 28 cent/gallon increase at the pumps. I am not clear on where the .28 cost came from and I don’t think we knew that the wholesaler would pass the entire amount on to the consumer (although I guess that would be likely). Plus, the increase was to be phased in over 3 year period. But guess it’s a moot point now.

  2. My issue with Ms. Jamieson’s letter was not her support of the transportation funding bill, but the fact that she outright lied about Kampf taking a pledge he never took. I am surprised you aren’t upset by that as well.

    As you stated, Rep. Kampf was consistent throughout this, always calling for a middle ground. I am disappointed that Rep. Milne, who said he was supportive of this and even tied it to the PTC, changed his vote and voted “No.” I am surprised you aren’t upset by his flip-flop.

    As for the transportation bill, was this version doomed from the start? The Governor’s original proposal was only $1.8 billion but the Senate added another $700 million bringing it to the $2.5 billion mark. Was that smart on their part?

    Also, did the administration really want $1.8 billion or was it something smaller? Normally, in negotiations, you don’t start at your lowest number. Maybe he wanted $1.1 billion or something like that?

    With that in mind — and the fact that Rep. Kampf has been consistent in saying he could support something smaller – is there a chance for compromise? I would think there are others like Kampf (Republican and Democrat) willing to come to the middle.

    I believe and hope there is a chance to move transportation funding forward if the “leaders” of both parties and both the Senate and House can put aside their games and move to compromise…a place Rep. Kampf seems to have started at and seems willing to end up.

    I still think that the money will, eventually, be there for the PTC. It’s just that it’s a lot of money when compared to other projects. The PTC is an important project. It’s important to SEPTA (probably more so than to the state department of transportation) and to locals. Even Rep. Kampf has said it is important and has worked on it since his time as a Supervisor.

    Projects have occurred for years without this bill and they will continue to do so.

    I will say, however, that I think when compared with the need for bridge repairs across the entire state, the PTC may not rank as high (even though it’s important to us.)

    I think most people, even those who support the PTC, would agree making what we already have safe should be priority one.

    1. I can agree that bridge repairs in PA should be TOP priority — remember our bridge deficiencies make PA #1 in the country!

      Yes, Kampf has said that he supports the Paoli Transit Center but what has he done for the project, besides say that he supports it. This is not intended as a snipe, really I just want to know what he has done for the project. Saying you support a project and actually doing something to move it forward are not always the same.

      As for Ms. Jamieson’s editorial and her accusation of Rep. Kampf’s ‘no tax’ pledge — I agree that if you are going to make the accusation, you need to provide the proof. In her editorial, Jamieson did not provide that proof. From Kampf, I would like to know where the 28 cent/gallon at the pump statistic came from — You seem to be in the know on transportation funding and Kampf’s position, could you provide that documentation?

      1. Pattye,

        What I know of Rep. Kampf’s position comes from the same OpEd you read.

        The numbers, however, are easy to prove by looking on-line.

        The current Oil Company Franchise Tax is 153.5 mills for regular gas/208.5 mills for diesel. (Pa dept of state)

        The Average Wholesale Price is $1.25 per gallon (pa highway information association)

        This means the current tax is:

        $1.25 x .1535 = 19.2 cents per gallon

        Senate Bill 1 would set the average wholesale price to…

        $1.87 from July 1 to Dec 31, 2013
        $2.49 for all of 2014
        $3.11 for all of 2015

        That means in 2015 the tax per gallon would be:

        .1535 x $3.11 = 47.7 cents

        47.7 less current 19.2 equals a 28.5 cent per gallon increase. For diesel it’s 38.7 cent per gallon increase

        Also, the phase in is really over two years if you look at dates in legislation (by 2015 which is two years away)

        All of this is available on-line, plus legitimate news outlets like the Harrisburg Patriot News have reported this 28 cents for months,

        While I understand your skepticism, I don’t think Rep. Kampf would put out numbers he couldn’t back up, especially when they would be so easy to prove or disprove (I did it in 15 minutes with some web searches).

        Unfortunately, Ms. Jamieson will put out charges she can’t prove but you don’t really question her. How about you get her to prove her statements like I just proved your question?

        1. Didn’t I say that Ms. Jamieson had not provided proof of her charges in my last response to you.

          As for Ms. Jamieson’s editorial and her accusation of Rep. Kampf’s ‘no tax’ pledge — I agree that if you are going to make the accusation, you need to provide the proof. In her editorial, Jamieson did not provide that proof

          So … I’ll make the ask official — In Ms. Jamieson’s Op-Ed article, she claims that Rep. Kampf took a ‘no tax pledge’. Ms. Jamieson, please provide us with proof substantiating your claim against Rep. Kampf.

          Thank you for providing the 28 cent/gallon information. As follow-up in my last response to you I also asked how Rep. Kampf had supported the Paoli transportation project, other than saying he supported it. Since the voters sent him to Harrisburg, what specifically has Rep. Kampf done to advance the project? Thank you.

      2. On the Grover Norquist pledge, I took it upon myself.

        Try this link:
        http://s3.amazonaws.com/atrfiles/files/files/State%20Taxpayer%20Protection%20Pledge%20List_CURRENT_2013(11).pdf

        It shows who has and hasn’t signed the pledge. Kampf isn’t on it. She is lying.

        As for the “what has he done,” I am sure he can better answer that than I. As I said above, my knowledge of his positions come from the same public statements you have seen and/or posted.

        1. Thanks for providing the link for the Norquist pledge. Now that the transportation funding bill is no longer possible (at least not this particular one) maybe I will send Rep. Kampf an email and ask how he can help the Paoli Transit Center and the PA turnpike widening project move forward.

  3. Public standards for OP ED contributors must be at an all time low.. Rable rousing and political clap trap is just what most of us in TE have been trying to eradicate, in the name of fair, honest discourse. We can disagree, and some of us will lose the battle. There is no excuse for loud mouth political hacks now. We need leadership and compromise. Here’s hoping Warren Kampf and his brethren in the state house will get something together that makes sense and doesn’t have a huge impact at the pumps. Sure, I would like to see his math. But he stuck to his guns about it. My guess is he would like to see Paoli fixed. Why wouldn’t he? It has to be right.

  4. thank you FTW for suppling this timely info!
    I am curious as to how Rep Kampf would be able to answer “what has he done to move the project along?”

    should he be talking with architects engineers and accountants? Should he be trying to get financing? ( he is, under conditions his constiuents can live with) maybe a bullhorn and rodeo would suffice?
    What would you suggest he do? Work on a bill maybe that would pass… just askin….

  5. Nope. Unlike SB1 this amendment raised the other tax even more to make up the difference. And there is no limit to how high tax can go; as long as gas prices rise, the tax does too.

  6. From the legislation – my understanding is that bracketed text is to be removed.

    “Section 40.1. Section 9004(a), (b), (c) introductory
    paragraph and (e) introductory paragraph of Title 75 are amended to read:
    § 9004. Imposition of tax, exemptions and deductions.
    (a) [Liquid fuels and fuels tax.–A permanent State tax of
    12¢ a gallon or fractional part thereof is imposed and assessed upon all liquid fuels and fuels used or sold and delivered bydistributors within this Commonwealth.] (Reserved).

  7. Our roads suck! It is a disgrace that we have to drive on these roads and constantly hear about no funds. It’s something we all use from rich to poor. Infrastructure should never be a party issue. Both sides should demand smooth, well maintained roads period.

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