Warren Kampf

PA Voter ID Law: Can Court Battles be Far Behind?

Yesterday the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the controversial voter ID bill HB 934 with a vote count of 104 – 88.  With Governor Corbett’s signature, Pennsylvania is now home to one of the toughest voter identification laws in the nation.

As expected, legislators cast their votes largely along partisan lines.  Locally, Republican state representatives Warren Kampf (R-157) and Duane Milne (R-167) voted for the bill and Democratic state senator Andy Dinniman (D-19) voted against the bill. The law goes into effect today requiring all Pennsylvania voters to present a photo ID issued by state or federal government, a state university or a nursing home, when voting in national, state or local elections.

Rather than closing the chapter on the voter identification bill debate, the passage of this bill will undoubtedly open the floodgates to legal battles. This new voter ID requirement is going to cost Pennsylvania taxpayers more than the million of dollars to implement to address a problem that essentially does not exist.  Legal challenges to the law are inevitable and those costly court battles will further tap taxpayer funds … in a year that cannot afford such expenses.

In two separate cases this week, we saw Wisconsin and Texas, involved in battles over their new state voter identification laws.  In Wisconsin, Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan put a temporary injunction onWisconsin’s voter ID law.  A trial to determine whether the injunction will become permanent is set for April 16.  The temporary injunction means that the restrict law will not be in effect for Wisconsin’s April 3rd primary and elections.  The US Department of Justice blocked the new photo-ID requirement for voters in Texas claiming that many Hispanic voters do not have the proper identification.

Proponents of Pennsylvania’s new voter ID legislation claim that the law is needed to combat voter fraud, although there was no indication of existing voter impersonation fraud in Pennsylvania, which is the only type of voter fraud this legislation would address.

No evidence of voter fraud plague found in Pennsylvania but we now have a law to prevent such an occurrence. Looks to me like Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law is a “solution without a problem”.

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Underfunded Pennsylvania Pension Funds Need Real Reform

Pennsylvania is facing a multi-billion dollar public pension crisis – now is the time for pension reform in Harrisburg.  The Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) and the State Employees Retirement System (SERS), the two systems administering retirement accounts for state and public school employees, are severely underfunded and will become insolvent without an increase in taxpayer contributions.

In discussing the need for pension reform, in December 2010, I wrote . . .

“did you know that more than half the state’s municipal pension plans are less than 90 percent funded?  Calculated as the ratio of assets to liabilities, 644 municipal pension plans are labeled as “distressed” by the state’s Public Employee Retirement Commission (PERC).  Of those, 26 are less than 50 percent funded and branded as “severely distressed.”

I cannot speak for the accuracy of those numbers thirteen months later, but I have to believe that they have not improved.

One of the last bills signed into law as Gov. Rendell was leaving office was HB 2497, which became Act 120.  But instead of reforming the defined-benefit pension system, this legislation ‘kicked the pension can’ further down the road, by deferring pension payments and increasing the unfunded liability by billions of dollars in lost investments and interest – in essence, leaving the problem on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren.

In the old days, the nature of traditional pension coverage in the private and public sector was quite similar; the majority of all employees were covered by a defined benefit plan where the liability of the pension lies with the employer. However, there is a reason why in the last decade that the vast majority of private sector employees have turned away from defined benefit plans to some form of a 401(k) type plan – the challenge of keeping a defined-benefit plan, particularly in our unstable economic climate, has proven too great for most companies to bear.

Defined-benefit plans may provide the best financial safety net for employees, but most private sectors can no longer afford to maintain them – the strain on the company balance sheets has proved too large for firms to withstand.  And even in the case where a company struggled to keep a traditional defined-benefit plan in place, the economic downturn has prompted plan changes whether they were preferred or not.

Teachers and state workers should not be targeted as public enemies because of their benefit packages. However, I just do not see how their defined-benefit plan (in its present form) is sustainable for the future.  Clearly, pension reform should not affect any vested state employees or pensioners already in the system – changes should only affect future employees.

From the taxpayer side, we are angry because we have to make up the state’s pension fund losses as we watch our own 401(k) accounts depleting. The teachers argue they never took a vacation from paying into the system and that a pension is necessary to attract and keep good teachers.  Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) the state’s largest teachers union is on record that will oppose any proposed changes to Act 120, such as a 401(k) type of defined contribution plan. This is a catch-22 situation; we want to maintain a high quality of teachers and state workers in Pennsylvania, but we cannot afford the current pension price tag.

During the last election cycle, there was much discussion from school board candidates about the District’s financial situation and possible solutions, including imposing an earned income tax.  Some candidates believed that because the financial problems were caused by Harrisburg, that it should be up to the state to find the solution, not the school districts (taxpayers).  Candidate and now re-elected school board president Karen Cruickshank called on the state to “fix your mess” and suggested that residents contact their legislators and the governor to push for pension reform.

State Rep Warren Kampf (R-157) has an editorial, “Change the pension system to help taxpayers” in today’s Phoenixville Patch. In the article, Kampf states that his pension reform legislation,

“will require all new state employees and those hired by school districts to participate in a defined contribution plan (like the 401k-style plan that is prevalent in the private sector) where the taxpayer would  be required only to match the employee’s contribution. This would be in lieu of the traditional defined benefit pension plan”. 

Under Kampf’s plan, state employees would have a system similar to the private sector where an employee owns their 401(k) plan and takes it with them if they leave the job.  In a Community Matters article from December 2010 (cited earlier) I wrote,

“. . . As another form of fiscal responsibility, Kampf announced that he would not be taking the state’s defined-benefit pension plan and will work on the creation of a defined 401K-type plan for legislators and state employees.” 

I have not agreed with all of Kampf’s votes since he took office, but to give credit where due . . .  Kampf’s promise to work on pension reform were made prior to his taking office in 2011, and today we learn that he plans to introduce his proposed reform legislation this spring.  (Click here to read the Phoenixville Patch editorial).

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Will former State Rep Paul Drucker challenge State Rep Warren Kampf for the 157th District in 2012?

Is former State Rep Paul Drucker considering a 2012 run against State Rep Warren Kampf?  You be the judge.

In my post, ‘Tea Party Agenda by State Rep. Warren Kampf, so claims Former State Rep Paul Drucker’ dated August 27th, I included Paul Ducker’s recent ‘As I See It’ editorial from the Main Line Media News. 

Drucker claimed that Kampf was following the tea party agenda and gave examples of the education cuts in the state budget, the lack of taxing Marcellus Shale gas drilling and decreased state funding for social services.  In reading the editorial, it was obvious that Drucker did not agree with some of Kampf’s choices since taking office in January.  Although Drucker may not agree with Kampf’s governing approach, the article left me wondering what would he do differently?  I also found the timing of the op-ed of interest; questioning why Drucker decided to write it ‘now’. 

I came up with 6 questions for our former state representative and asked for a response by Wednesday, August 31.  As I wrote on August 27, if Drucker responded to the questions, I would offer his answers on Community Matters.  Below are my questions and Drucker’s answers.  I offer Kampf the opportunity to respond to Drucker’s comments.

1.    Why write the As I See It article ‘now’?

Representative Kampf has written a series of factually incorrect and misleading e-mails, which he has sent to residents of the 157 District, as well as opinion pieces for the newspaper.  These communications are nothing more than his parroting the tea party line on important issues facing the Commonwealth.  I felt it was important to correct errors and give context to the Republican majority’s priorities.

2.  What do you think are the most challenging issues currently facing the residents of the 157 District?

There are many challenging issues that negatively affect Pennsylvania residents, but I will restrict my answer to the most challenging issue locally, and the most challenging issue statewide.

You don’t have to be a savant to realize the most challenging issue facing the 157th.  This is obvious to anyone who drives through the commercial areas in the District or walks down Lancaster Avenue in Paoli.  Empty storefronts abound. The focus needs to be on jobs, jobs, and jobs by supporting and encouraging business development.  For example, the long awaited development of the Paoli Intermodal Train Station is a potential economic engine that will help turn us around and lead to an economic revival.  It will provide short-term jobs.  It will provide long-term jobs.  It will create new residential, and commercial space.  It will bring in new retail space, restaurants, apartments and housing.  It will create additional tax ratables on what is now worthless property.  It will create a TOWN CENTER.   In Phoenixville, the development of the old steel site is also critical to the economic health of the district.

The most challenging issue facing the Commonwealth is equally obvious.  We have a serious budget crisis.  But it is not a crisis caused solely by expenditures and can’t be cured by making draconian cuts to education and the social services.  The revenue side of the budget needs to be addressed realistically.  This means analyzing and utilizing potential sources of revenue.  Last year, the House passed a tax on Marcellus shale that was modeled after the West Virginia Marcellus tax. (I voted in favor of the bill)  The Senate refused to approve the measure and it died.  This year there is similar bill on the House floor that would produce $420 million in revenue in 2012.  This would go a long way to supporting education and needed social programs.  But at this point there is no Republican support, so the bill cannot even get out of committee.                   

3.   If you had been re-elected as state representative, what would you be doing differently than State Rep Warren Kampf to address these issues?

To support economic revitalization and development in the 157th, I would pitch my tent in the office of Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph.  I would make his office my satellite office. (Which is what I did when I was in the House)  I would make Trans. Secy Schoch and House Transportation Chairman Geist my nbff. (Which is what I did when I was in the House)  I would go to meetings. I would create meetings.  I would convince everybody and anybody of the reality, vitality and economic importance of the Train Station and the steel site development, not only to the 157th, but also to the entire Delaware Valley and to the Commonwealth.

To address the revenue situation, I would immediately sign on as a cosponsor to H.B. 33.  This is the Marcellus bill.  I would go to State Representative Benninghoff, Chairman of the House Finance Committee and try to convince him to release the bill to the floor. (In fact, a discharge motion to force this bill to floor was defeated.  Representative Kampf voted in lock step with his tea party cohorts to defeat the bill) I would talk to House Majority Leadership and attempt to get them to support the bill.  I would let it be known that this bill is vital to closing our budget gap, and vital to protecting the environment of the communities where the drilling is taking place and the water shed of the entire Commonwealth.                     

4.   Where do you think State Rep Kampf should focus his attention?   

See above.                  

5.    Do you think that the possible 157 District re-districting could play a role in the State Representative race of 2012? If so, why?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is going to get redistricted.  Among other things, Chester County gained 65,000 people since the last redistricting and will get an additional seat in the State House of Representatives.  Since the Republicans control the Senate, the House and the Governor, they control this process.

The only constitutional requirement is one of mathematics, one person, one vote.  As long as each district is within the standard deviation of the mean the district passes muster.  The district doesn’t even have to be contiguous.  (I introduced a bill, that didn’t pass, that required many other factors to be taken into consideration when redistricting.  This would have made the decision much more representative and made gerrymandering much more difficult)

There is no question that the Republicans will gerrymander any district they can if it will strengthen that district from a Republican perspective and if they can do so without weakening another corresponding Republican district.  Whether on not that will impact the 157th remains to be seen.

6.  Are you considering a 2012 run against State Rep Kampf?

This question is premature.  I can say that I have remained involved in the affairs of the 157th and intend to continue to do so.  I will support the citizens of this district any way that I can.

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Paoli Transportation Center Project Takes Big Steps Forward – A Letter-of-Interest Request Issued by Tredyffrin Township and Request-for-Proposal Issued by SEPTA!

Plans Afoot For Troubled Paoli Rail Yard, Can It Become A Transportation Center With Buses And Better Parking?”

This Philadelphia Inquirer headline above was not written this week, this month, this year — no, the article is seventeen years old, dating from September 14, 1994!

This years-old Inquirer article focused on the possibility of turning the “problematic Paoli rail yard into a sophisticated intermodal transportation center” which would accommodate “a transportation center, complete with buses and improved parking.” Can it be that the dream, this vision for the future may still be possible?  Maybe so.

At the last Board of Supervisors Meeting, I was disappointed that the supervisors did not update on the process of the Paoli Transportation Center.  There had been previous discussion about an upcoming issuance of a Request-for-Proposal (RFP) on the N. Valley/Central Avenue road and bridge improvement project (part of the Paoli Transportation Center project) and I was seeking an update — specifically was an RFP issued?  If so, what was the status, how many bidders, due date, etc.

Many of us have followed the saga of the train station for years, and remain interested in the progress (if any) on the project.  My intention in asking for an official public update was certainly not to step on the toes of either the township staff or our elected officials, but just to seek information.  What’s the old adage, “Ask and ye shall receive”? I was asking the questions, but I guess I wasn’t asking the right way or to the right people.

Although not listed on the township website, I discovered with some Internet research that the Tredyffrin Township Engineering Department has issued a ‘Letter of Interest’ for the “Paoli Road Improvement Project – Feasibility Study and Public Involvement Program”. According to the township’s Letter of Interest request, all phases of the Feasibility Study will be 100% state funded and that the township is encouraging responses from small firms and firms that have not previously done work for the township.

The township’s public Letter of Interest advertisement gives the full solicitation details on the Paoli Road Improvement Project and includes the following:

Tredyffrin Township Letter of Interest Request:

Paoli Road Improvement Project – Feasibility Study and Public Improvement Program

Tredyffrin Township will retain a PADOT qualified engineering and public involvement consultant team to provide a feasibility study and public involvement and outreach program to assess the traffic, roadway, infrastructure and community stakeholder needs, and identify potential alternatives for the existing local and PADOT roadway network located in Paoli, in the vicinity of S.R. 0030 (Lancaster Avenue), E./W. Central Avenues, Paoli Pike/ Greenwood Avenue, Darby Road, Plank Avenue and N./S. Valley Roads. The Township seeks a feasibility study that provides cost effective alternatives to allow for traffic calming, streetscape, intersection modification, and signal timing adjustments to address existing congestion and public safety concerns while providing for the needs of motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, rail users and the overall vision for a multi-modal Paoli.

Alternatives included in the feasibility study should emphasize solutions that meet current PADOT design and safety standards, and the local stakeholder and Township vision for the Paoli Transportation and Town Center Districts. In addition to the Feasibility Study, an intensive coordinated public outreach and stakeholder involvement process must parallel the identified Feasibility Study phases to ensure final recommendations have been thoroughly discussed, stakeholder input received while ultimately working toward a consensus on roadway improvements for consideration and prioritization for future design and construction phases of the project.

The township’s Letter of Interest words, “. . .  intensive coordinated public outreach and stakeholder involvement process . . .” aligns with my request that the public remain ‘in the loop’ and informed on the process of this important community project.

The list of companies already registered to submit a Letter of Interest to the township on the Paoli transportation project is impressive!  To date, 50+ companies have registered, including local companies from Wayne, Malvern, West Chester, Collegeville, Exton and Kimberton and several companies from Lancaster, Gettysburg, New Jersey and Delaware.  Source Management Onvia of Seattle, Washington has also registered to bid the project!  Letters of interest are due by bidders to the township by 2 PM on September 15, 2011. It is my understanding that registration does not necessarily imply that all registered companies will submit a Letter of Interest.

According to the Letter of Interest advertisement by the township, the evaluation and selection process by Tredyffrin Twp is:

For the purposes of negotiating a contract, the ranking of a minimum of three (3) firms will be done directly from the Letters of Interest. Technical proposals will not be required prior to the ranking. Only the top three (3) firms will be requested to prepare technical proposals. The top three (3) firms will then be ranked based off the Technical Proposal and the top firm will be requested to submit a cost proposal.

In another big step for the Paoli Transportation Center project, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has issued a Request-for-Proposal, Proposal Number 11-091-DMH for qualified “Consultants for Architectural/Engineering Services for Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center”.

SEPTA’s A&E Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center RFP description states:

Consultant services include, but are not limited: the development of construction documents (plans and specifications) for the construction of the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center in accordance with the scope of work of this RFP and in full compliance ADA and other governing authorities.   The deadline for proposals is September 7, 2011.

The issuance of a Letter of Interest by Tredyffrin Twp and a Request-for-Proposal from SEPTA is positive and encouraging news for the community on the Paoli Transportation Center project and marks real progress in this long journey.

As Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

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Tredyffrin Township Needs an Economic ‘Call for Action’ From its Elected Officials

Nearly 6 months ago on February 2, 2011, I wrote a post called, Another Store Closing in Tredyffrin . . . A Suggestion for a Business Task Force’.  The post detailed another store closing its doors; at the time, it was Tuesday Morning.  This post was written immediately following the supervisor interviews for the appointment of an interim supervisor (to fill vacated Warren Kampf’s seat).  One of the reasons I wrote the post was that I was struck by the fact that in the interview process, all the supervisor candidates listed economic development as one of the most important issues facing the township. Here is an excerpt from the February 3, 2011 post on Community Matters:

In light of the many empty storefronts in the township, the supervisors listed attracting new businesses at the top of the challenge list. I agree that encouraging new business growth is essential but equally important, is how can we support the businesses that we have?

I wonder if a township business task force would help . . . a volunteer group of local retired executives, small business owners, and corporate representatives. The group would meet monthly with a mission to spearhead ways to improve existing relationships and provide assistance and a resource for township businesses. This important support group for the business community could provide regular updates and suggestions to the Board of Supervisors. Just an idea . . .

Subsequent to this post, I had further discussions with several of the township supervisors on the creation of a task force to help our small businesses and to encourage new corporate business development in the township.  At the April 4, 2011 Board of Supervisors meeting, supervisor Phil Donahue made a motion for an ‘Economic Development Committee’, which would include himself and supervisors Michelle Kichline and Mike Heaberg.  The motion was seconded by supervisor Paul Olson and passed unanimously.  Here are the relevant township minutes from the supervisors meeting which detailed the committee:

Mr. Donahue made a motion to form an Economic Development Committee, to pull together information, gather facts, and begin a dialog putting our best foot forward and creating the right environment for Tredyffrin. Mr. Olson seconded the motion.

Ms. Kichline said she, Mr. Donahue and Mr. Heaberg would recruit members of the business community and surrounding regions to serve on the committee, which would advise the entire Board on the role and scope for where we want to go with large and small businesses. Mr. Heaberg said we are looking for creative strategic thinkers in the community.

Resident Carlotta Johnston-Pugh said she didn’t see a lot of diversity in the community and thought this would bring more companies to the Township as well as residents. Mr. Donahue said the first step will be having an opportunity to discuss ideas like that with residents.  At the end of discussion, motion passed.

It has been 4 months since the supervisors  passed the motion to create the Economic Development Committee.  I attend all the supervisors meetings and in checking meeting minutes, I could find no  further reference to this committee. Understanding that there may be ‘behind the scenes’ movement on the Economic Development Committee my supervisors, I would still ask what is the status of the committee?  Besides supervisors Donohue, Kichline and Heaberg, who are the members of the committee?  How often do they meet and what is their mission?

In my early discussions with supervisors, I had suggested that the committee needed to include a balance of small business owners, corporate representatives and interested members of the community.  As a small business owner and former member of the Paoli Business & Professional Association Board of Directors, like many other residents, I have a stake in the development and encouragement of our business community.  As is the case in many parts of this country, we have seen little improvement in our economic climate and our community needs a grassroots effort to help our businesses succeed and to encourage new growth and development. 

I was prompted to write today’s post by an article in the Philadelphia Business Journal, www.bizjournals.com . Newtown Borough in Bucks County is looking at various ways to help their struggling businesses and will hold a roundtable discussion to brainstorm ideas.  Council members in Newtown are optimistic that the roundtable will open up communication between the residents, business owners and elected officials.  I was optimistic that Tredyffrin’s Economic Development Committee would provide a similar type of forum for our community that would include residents, corporate representatives and small business owners in the discussion.

It is so disheartening to hear of more and more businesses failing – leaving empty office buildings and storefronts in the wake.  In addition to an update on the Economic Development Committee, I would also like a status report on the Paoli Transportation Center.  A few weeks ago, I wrote of the train station and was given the impression from our State Rep Warren Kampf, Willistown, and Tredyffrin township supervisors that the transportation center remains a priority.  If the project is a priority, I believe that the community should expect an update.

Economic development in Tredyffrin Township needs to be more than political campaign promises . . . the decline of our business community is a serious issue and we need help to stabilize and save our community.  Should we hold our elected officials accountable?  Or, . . . do you think that the severity of the economic situation is beyond the scope of township supervisors?  Can local officials make a difference with our local economic climate?  My answer to the last question — is that they need to try. 

With last week’s unexpected closing of Jake’s Frozen Custard in Paoli after only 10 months, I was again reminded of the fragileness of our economic environment.  Our elected officials – local and state – need to help save our existing small businesses and encourage development and growth of new business in the township.  These are not passing problems that somehow time will magically erase.  Previously, I volunteered to serve on the Economic Development Committee and I am confident I could get many more to help – we just need direction.

The next Board of Supervisors meeting is on Monday, August 15.  I am sending a copy of this post to our township supervisors and State Representative requesting that the community receive an update on the Paoli Transportation Center project and on the township’s Economic Development Committee. I am asking for an economic ‘call for action’ from our elected officials.

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Supporting Corbett’s Budget, Rep Kampf claims it a “Victory for All Taxpayers”

I received an official email from Rep Warren Kampf supporting the newly approved state budget and claiming that it a “victory for all taxpayers”. Included in the email was a YouTube video of Kampf’s remarks presented last night in Harrisburg.  The 4 min. video contains something for everyone . . . I encourage you to watch it and look forward to your comments.

Hear my Floor Remarks from Last Night’s Budget Vote

I heard you.
Last night was a victory for all taxpayers because after eight years of uncontrolled spending and borrowing, we have brought fiscal discipline back to state government.?

View my remarks

This budget recognizes the financial burdens we’ve placed on our families and reverses these trends by reducing spending and rejecting tax increases when people can least afford them.

I also knew we could do a better job prioritizing spending than the governor did in his proposal, and we have. Local schools will receive millions of dollars more than proposed. For example, we were able to restore $1.276 million to the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District alone.

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Toll Road Privatization – Is this the Answer to State’s Infrastructure Problems?

Huffington Post today contained a timely article on the privatization of highways and their tolling, Toll Road Privatization: As Ohio Considers It, Indiana Serves As Cautionary Tale. 

The article discusses that state’s across the country are looking at privatizing highways as a way to finance necessary infrastructure repairs.  One interesting tolling concept discussed would privatize Interstate 95 and the Capital Beltway around my hometown, Washington, DC.  Partnering with private investors using an 80-year lease, the plan would develop a ‘HOT’ (high occupancy toll) lanes.  Here’s way the plan would work – if you are a commuter with 3 people in a car you won’t have to pay a toll but if you are commuting with 2 people, you would pay a toll to ride in the fast lane.  This plan would guarantee revenue for the length of the lease. A HOV lane typically requires 2 persons in the car but in this instance, a HOT lane rewards those commuters with 3 or more persons — no toll.

Jeremy Roebuck of MontCo Memo, a blogger writing on Montgomery County politics and communities writes an interesting post today on the Montgomery County politics of the tolling of 422. Looks like there are some Montgomery County politicians who believe to support 422 tolling could be their poison pill in November. Here’s Roebuck’s post:

MontCo Memo, www.philly.com – posted by Jeremy Roebuck

For whom 422 tolls?

Well, that didn’t take long… 

A week ago Montgomery County’s commissioner candidates adopted a mostly wait-and-see attitude regarding the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s plan to toll 422 to fund much-needed, congestion-easing improvements. This week, all four have come out against the plan.

Incumbent Commissioner Bruce L. Castor Jr. and his Republican ticket running mate Jenny Brown, a Lower Merion Commissioner, released a statement Wednesday declaring their opposition. Said Brown: “The taxpayers have already paid for route 422, and tolling in this circumstance is not appropriate.”

Brown has a history of being a fiscally conservative hawk on Lower Merion’s board of supervisors, so no surprises there. Castor, who said last week he wasn’t crazy about the idea but needed more information, joined Brown in full-throated condemnation Wednesday.

Not to be outdone, Democratic candidates State Rep. Josh Shapiro and Whitemarsh Supervisor Leslie Richards released a joint-statement of their own, also poo-pooing the prospects of tolls: “We are committed to reducing congestion on our roadways–particularly along the Rt. 422 corridor. While we are in search of workable solutions to address our infrastructure needs, we are opposed to the Rt. 422 tolling plan.”  Last week, Richards said she looked forward to seeing what the DVRPC was going to propose.

It was always going to be a tough sell. To pass, the DVRPC’s plan needs approval first from the state assembly — which must approve legislation allowing locally run tolling authorities in the state. Then, county commissioners had to come together in Montgomery, Chester and Berks Counties to create such an authority here.

And while many state and local politicos agree in private that the tolling proposal is the only way 422’s congestion will be eased any time soon, it’s become political poison among the area’s cash-strapped commuters.

Don’t think for a second those political factors haven’t weighed on the minds of the DVRPC’s planners. Unveiling the plan during a county election year is a gamble as it is sure to become an issue in commissioners’ campaigns in the three counties. But putting it off another year, would drop the question right in the middle of State Assembly races. (State Rep. Warren Kampf, R., Chester, has already shown the power of taking a strong anti-toll stance. He unseated incumbent Paul Drucker in part on a platform opposed to tolling.)

Still, Joseph M. Hoeffel III — vice chair of MontCo’s commissioners’ board, head of the DVRPC, and one of the tolling plan’s chief proponents — thinks there’s still room to navigate these tricky political waters.

Then again, he’s not running for re-election.

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The ‘To Toll or Not to Toll’ Discussion Continues . . . A Personal Response from State Rep Warren Kampf

The ‘To Toll or Not to Toll’ discussion continues . . . the tolling of 422 continues to make headlines and yesterday was a busy day for legislators on either side of the issue.

In an op-ed article (6/9/11) in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Joe Hoeffel (D), vice chair of the Montgomery County Commission and chair of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, wrote, “there isn’t enough state or federal money for the job. The state has budgeted $250 million for the Route 422 corridor over the next decade, but transportation experts agree that $750 million is needed. And nobody believes the legislature or Congress will provide that kind of funding anytime soon. Without a new funding source, 422 will not be fixed for at least 30 years, according to projections by the state Department of Transportation. By that time, the highway will be gridlocked for much of the day.”  Hoeffel supports tolling of 422 and believes that a modest toll could generate $800 million in a few years.

Opposing the tolling of 422, state representatives David Maloney, (R) Berks, Marcy Toepel, (R) Montgomery, Tom Quigley, (R) Montgomery and Warren Kampf (R), our 157th district representative, held a news conference in Phoenixville yesterday.  Calling the 422 project, the Hoeffel Tolling Plan, these local legislators do not believe that tolling is a viable option to pay for infrastructure improvements.  Click here for a short video clip of the press conference.

There continues to be much written and discussed about the tolling of 422.  Depending on how you feel about the topic, you can find supporters on either side of the issue; those for tolling and those against tolling. However, regardless of your personal views on  tolling, I think we can all agree that the traffic congestion on 422 is a commuter’s nightmare and that something needs to change, and. . . we need people with a vision to encourage that change.

We aware that our own state representative continues to stand behind his ‘no tolling of 422′ campaign message — but it was unclear to me whether Kampf considered that Route 422 was actually a traffic problem.  Seeking clarification on his ‘422 traffic’ position, I sent him this simple email a couple of days ago:

Dear Rep. Kampf,

As my elected State Representative, do you believe that there is a traffic problem on Route 422?

Thank you and I look forward to your response.

Pattye Benson

As some of you are aware, my previous communication with Kampf has not always been the most successful. Now that he is our elected state representative, I was curious to see if anything had changed and admit I was pleasantly surprised that he took the time to send a personal and lengthy response. I believe that there is value in my sharing his response and have notified him that I would be adding it to today’s post on Community Matters.  His reply to my email:

Pattye:

Thank you for your email. I welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you may have heard, I am on record as being against tolling 422. I believe that this “toll” is just another name for a tax on the already overburdened commuters of that roadway. But I recognize that 422 is a transportation problem for commuters.

The idea to address 422’s needs without tolling is not solely mine; Governor Corbett has convened a Transportation Funding Advisory Committee that is looking at over 50 prospective ways to address the funding gap for our road/bridge infrastructure (tolling is one of the options but in no way is it the only option being discussed). I believe that prioritizing, finding cost savings and advocacy for our regional roadways must be tools considered as part of the discussion too.

I have empathy for the people who drive that roadway, and I have my own personal experience on 422 to draw from. We all pay the same gas taxes and vehicle fees that others in Pennsylvania pay, but the response to fix our road has been to ask my constituents to pay up to $5 a day more for the privilege of driving that road! That just seems unfair.

Other areas have had road and bridge needs addressed. PennDOT does have a larger plan for the area’s roads. As you know, 202 is getting significant improvement. Route 309 was also rebuilt. These projects came to fruition not with tolling revenue but with the already existing sources within the Commonwealth that I mentioned above. Why is 422 unique?

There is over $240 Million currently programmed for improvement of 422 during the next eight (8) years within the PennDOT plans. This is in the plan without tolling. While it is not enough, and does not come fast enough, it will be a good start. Tolling does not appear likely to make this set of improvements happen any faster that I can tell. Further, this proposal is being billed as a public private partnership, but fundamentally it is almost entirely public money—both tolls and other transportation funding—that will pay for these improvements. Finally, there is a rail line proposal in the mix here, paid for with toll money. While I certainly recognize the attractiveness of restored rail to towns like Phoenixville, this will in all likelihood require management by SEPTA, or some such entity, and we know such rail lines usually run at a significant deficit year in and year out. That cost will ultimately pass on to the taxpayers, and I campaigned on a platform that promised the taxpayer, in tough times such as these and in good times, a seat at the table when these decisions are made. I feel I am making good on that commitment but seeking alternatives.

As a final thought, we built 422 with public money. We have maintained it with public money. We have continued to collect those monies and have an obligation to serve the people who drive that road. One could argue it would be a violation of the public trust to change the game now and introduce tolls. The 422 corridor continues to grow in large part because of the access that road provides. Indeed, it is a road regularly used for shopping and other trips not related to “commuting.” I believe my constituents feel as I do, and I welcome your input.

Thank you for your question.

Warren

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For Whom the Road Tolls: Day of Reckoning for Rt. 422 Tolling Begins

The tolling of Rt. 422 was front-page headlines in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer. Rising to the top of the local news charts, the tolling of 422 is not ‘new’ news for most of us. Unless you have had your head buried in the sand, you could not have missed this much discussed campaign topic during the last State House 157 election cycle.  There was much heated debate from both sides on the ‘to toll or not to toll’ 422 issue.

If you are one of the 110,000+ commuters who daily sit in parking lot gridlock, known as Rt. 422, it looks like there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Tomorrow (Monday), Barry Seymour of Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) will present agenda item, ‘US 422 Plus: A Proposal for Funding Improvements’  (click here for agenda) to the Governors Transportation Funding Advisory Committee.  The DVRPC $625K plan “would create a locally run authority to collect 11 cents per mile and keep that money to fund improvements such as new lanes”.  Seymour hopes his DVRPC plan will convince the advisory committee and ultimately Gov. Corbett of the value of the 422-tolling project.

If granted legislative approval, the project would become the first locally managed highway toll system of its kind in Pennsylvania . . . a ‘model’ for the state.  All of the revenue would be devoted to 422-corridor projects and DVRPC plan supporters believe that making Rt. 422 a toll road in Berks, Montgomery and Chester counties is the only way to pay for a new passenger-rail service to Reading and to finance the badly needed upgrades to the congested highway. 

Others voice opposition to the 422 tolling issue, including our own State Rep Warren Kampf.  Still standing behind his campaign promise to voters not to toll 422, Kampf believes that “Tolling is just another way of taxing people going to work in these hard economic times. They’re already paying a lot of money in gas taxes and other fees” and he doesn’t “think that this is something they want.”

Where does this leave the frustrated, brake-slamming, horn-worthy commuters who suffer the daily use of Route 422?  Maybe answers will emerge as the day of reckoning begins in Harrisburg tomorrow.

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Once a State Rep Campaign Debate, Could the Tolling of Rt. 422 be a ‘Model’ for Tolling Highways across the State?

 What’s the saying, ‘What Goes Around, Comes Around” . . . ? 

For most of the year 2010, voters of Tredyffrin Township had a front row seat as the ‘tolling of Rt. 422’ issue became a political football in the PA State House 157 race between incumbent State Rep Paul Drucker (D) and challenger Warren Kampf (R).  Some political insiders might even argue that Drucker’s stance on 422 tolling may have contributed to the loss of his state representative position last November.

Although a heated campaign issue, post-election the tolling of Rt. 422 has had nearly non-existent discussion.  That is until now. According to Pennsylvania Independent, an on-line news service, the 25-mile, four-lane US Route 422 will be promoted on Monday, June 6 as a potential ‘model’ for tolling highways across the state as a means to increase transportation funding. 

Gov. Corbett’s recently appointed 30-member Transportation Funding Commission will hear a presentation on how tolls would work on Rt. 422 in Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties.  The executive commission is looking at a way to generate at least $2.5 billion in annual transportation funding for infrastructure needs and the ‘tolling of 422’ may serve as the state’s model for how to do it.

According to Barry Schoch, Secretary of Transportation for Pennsylvania and chairman of the commission, “Route 422 model would allow county or municipal authorities to form a ‘local taxation authority’ and keep the revenue from tolls and local taxes dedicated for local highways”. 

Construction of a local suburban commuter rail line was one of the possible uses of 422 tolls and a means to alleviate some of the highway traffic.  If you recall, the Philadelphia-based Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) created a Route 422 Corridor Master Plan and presented their findings in 2010 to local municipalities, including Tredyffrin Township.  Their plan, among other things, provided for a light rail commuter service and suggested tolling on Rt. 422 as a way of financing the project.

During 2010, the tolling of 422 provided a major talking point for the Drucker and Kampf political campaigns.  Drucker supported DVRPC and the Route 422 Corridor Master Plan, which included tolling of 422.  However, Drucker was specific that the tolling was for the commuter who was traveling the entire stretch of the highway on a regular basis, not the occasional user or those that would use it on-off. 

In response to Drucker, Kampf’s opposing position on the Route 422 Corridor Master Plan was simple.  On his campaign website, Kampf stated “My position on tolling Route 422 is clear: I oppose it.”  Remaining true to his campaign words, when asked to respond to the upcoming Transportation Funding Commission presentation to use tolling of 422 as a model for the state, Kampf said, “Tolling is another way of taxing people. . .”  He is opposed to using state and local funds to build, operate and maintain a commuter rail line that would benefit rail commuters at the expense of others. 

Like much of the country, many of Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges are in crisis; desperately in need of repairs. Although lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree on the infrastructure needs, they may not be as unified in the funding solutions.  No one has a crystal ball, but we now see evidence from Corbett’s Transportation Funding Commission that supports Drucker’s vision for the future . . . a suburban commuter rail line and the use of tolls to finance  infrastructure improvements.

Some could argue that State Rep Kampf battled former State Rep Drucker successfully on the 422 tolling issue, but it looks like Kampf could face a far greater challenge in Harrisburg . . . and,  from both sides.

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