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Legislature Returns, House Prepares for Transportation Funding Showdown

The House and Senate returned for fall session this week, and on Monday, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) said he planned to call for a straight up-or-down vote on Senate Bill 1, the $2.5 billion transportation funding plan passed by the Senate last spring.
Turzai, a proponent of tying transportation funding to liquor privatization, has made clear that he does not support the bill as is.  Many House Republicans have hesitated to support the funding over issues ranging from increases in the Oil Company Franchise Tax to limits on spending.  Democrats refused to provide votes this spring because they felt the overall spending and cuts to mass transit were nonstarters there.
The Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition continues to push for SB 1, and on Tuesday held a press conference at which statewide business organizations joined with the AFL-CIO and regional union representatives, local chambers and State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to call for support for the bill. More than 100 organizations have joined the coalition.
Governor Tom Corbett and PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch continue to push for a comprehensive funding plan to be delivered this year; it is unclear when the House vote will occur.
Passage of a comprehensive funding bill will have to be a bipartisan effort, but getting that done this fall would enable the state to begin improvements during the spring construction season.
Other major issues still on the table this fall include state pension reform, changes to the state liquor system – now in the State Senate, property tax reform proposals, and a change in the funding formula for cyber charter schools, which passed the House Wednesday.