Duane Milne

Seeking Support for Transportation Funding Bill from PA State Rep. Warren Kampf (R-157)

The infrastructure in Pennsylvania is in trouble and our roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems are not going to fix themselves – they need funding.

Earlier this year the PA Senate passed a $2.5 billion transportation funding proposal but the House has yet to vote on the measure … but time is running short for the state lawmakers to make a decision about the transportation funding bill. When elected officials return to Harrisburg on Tuesday, November 12, following their election recess, they only have about 10 session days to get the bill to Gov. Corbett for his signature before the end of the year.

Most of the money (approximately $1.9 billion) in the transportation bill would go for road, bridge and tunnel improvements with an additional $500 million earmarked for mass transit projects. In April 2011, I cited a newly released Transportation of America study that named Pennsylvania as first in the nation for having the “largest percentage of structurally deficient bridges”. Without additional funding, the structurally deficient bridges are likely to be weight-restricted, and in some cases, closed.  Beyond the obvious travel difficulties (and potential safety risks) for motorists, the deteriorating infrastructure is no boon to the state’s economic situation.

Of particular interest in the transportation funding bill is the $500 million component marked for mass transit   – one would think that the Paoli Transit Center project would be a candidate. The long and winding road for the Paoli Transit Center looks to now hinge on receiving funding from the proposed transportation bill.   According to Tredyffrin Township Manager Bill Martin, in a MLMN article last month, “If the state can’t meet its current infrastructure needs, all new transportation projects – including Paoli’s – will be held up. Funding brings in more funding. Without state dollars for the project, we can’t get federal dollars and we won’t be able to make deals with private developers.” 

Beyond the Paoli redevelopment project, the Tredyffrin residents whose properties are close to the PA Turnpike, specifically in the Great Valley, Chesterbrook and Glenhardie areas, are seeing the turnpike widening and sound wall plan  ‘on hold’ pending the passage of the transportation funding bill.   The PA Turnpike Commissioners have not approved their fiscal year 2014 Capital Plan that contains the turnpike widening and associated sound walls in Tredyffrin Township. According to a recent email that I received as a member of the PA Turnpike Design Roundtable, “The delay in the [Capital Plan] approval is linked to the ongoing negotiations for statewide transportation funding.  … Hopefully, transportation funding will be address in the near future, and a fiscal year 2014 Capital Plan will be approved.”

The proposed transportation bill that is waiting for approval from State lawmakers significantly impacts two major Tredyffrin Township projects – the Paoli Transit Center and the PA Turnpike (in addition to the improvement of state roads and bridges in the township).  The bill overwhelmingly cleared the Senate in June, what is it going to take for the lawmakers in the House to approve it and send it on to Gov. Corbett for his signature?

Low approval ratings and a challenging reelection battle looming, has Corbett stumping for the passage of the transportation bill.  According to the latest Franklin & Marshall College poll (October 2013), only one in five registered voters (20%) in Pennsylvania approve of the job that Corbett is doing and 61 percent believe that the state is “off on the wrong track”.   You have to think that the passage of a $2.5 billion transportation bill that would improve roads, bridges and transit systems could help boost the Governor’s sagging approval ratings.

State representatives Warren Kampf (R-157) and Duane Milne (R-167) each have a section of the PA Turnpike in their Districts and likewise their Districts overlap in the Paoli redevelopment project.  And like Governor Corbett, Republicans Kampf and Milne are both up for reelection in 2014. Milne is on record as supporting the transportation bill, stating in Main Line Suburban, “Without a substantial transportation bill, there is close to zero chance that the Paoli project gets funded in anywhere close to the foreseeable future. Our state is near the bottom in terms of its roads and transportation system. There is no revenue stream that will let us do first-class upgrades to our roads and infrastructure. If there’s no bill, it’s going to hurt our ability to do new projects like Paoli. We’ll be looking at the status quo or at a declining status quo.”

On the other hand, Kampf has been vocal in his opposition of the proposed transportation bill, at least in its present form.  Although Kampf in not questioning the need for infrastructure improvements, he objects to lifting the tax ceiling on gas wholesalers that would then be passed onto consumers as a means of paying for transportation improvements.  According to his Op-Ed article on TE Patch,  Kampf states that the, “passage of this legislation as it is today offers no guarantees for the future of that, or any other, local project.”   We know that there is no guarantee on project allocation in the funding bill but there is a flipside to this argument — What happens to the Paoli Transit Center project if the currently proposed transportation bill passes the House without Kampf’s signature?

With neighboring District state representatives at odds over the transportation bill, this could be the death knell for our local train station redevelopment project.  If the bill passes without Kampf’s support it seems probable that the funding for the Paoli Transit Center is likely to be used elsewhere

 I understand that Rep. Kampf does not want to increase taxes and is particularly concerned about what the increase in gas tax could mean to seniors, families, and small businesses that are already struggling. Kampf claims that the majority of the constituents who have contacted him do not support an increase in gas taxes to fund road, bridges and transit system improvements.  As one of his constituents, I disagree.  If he spoke to the 4,000 residents in the Great Valley, Chesterbrook and Glenhardie areas impacted by the PA Turnpike widening and sound wall project, I’m guessing that they too would encourage his support of the transportation funding bill.

With a reelection campaign ahead in 2014, is Kampf’s political calculus that the voters will punish him for supporting the transportation bill if it means raising the cost of gas.  In my opinion, it is more likely that the voters will punish him if he doesn’t support the bill, especially if it means the loss of the Paoli Transit Center and the PA Turnpike projects for Tredyffrin.

It’s difficult for elected officials to support a tax increase when they are not running for office – but when its election year, the task is all but impossible.  If Corbett does not have the proposed transportation funding bill on his desk in 2013, it seems unlikely that it will resurface in 2014 (election year).

The infrastructure in Pennsylvania is in trouble and our roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems are not going to fix themselves – they need funding and the money has to come from somewhere.  The clock is running down for State lawmakers to maake a decision on transportation funding.

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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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