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Transportation Packages Pass House, Senate, Awaits Governor’s Signature

The long winding road carrying the comprehensive transportation package finally came to a positive destination on Thursday, as the House voted 113-85 to approve a package negotiated among legislative leaders over the past several weeks. Yesterday the Senate voted to insert an amendment to HB 1060 offered by Senate Majority Chairman John Rafferty (R-Montgomery). The measure passed by a margin of 43-7, and contains similar language to an amendment offered in by House Majority Transportation Chairman Nick Micozzie (R-Delaware) earlier in the week to House Bill 106.
The Governor is expected to sign the bill without delay.
The bill as finally passed funds a $2.3 billion transportation funding plan which includes about $1.8 billion in additional revenue for bridges and highways. Of that, local governments will receive a boost of $237 million annually. Public transportation will receive nearly $500 million. Ports, rail freight, airports and bicycle/pedestrian projects will be funded from a new $144 million annual fund. Dirt and gravel roads also benefit, with $35 million earmarked to make repairs to the state’s more than 22,000 miles of dirt and gravel roads.
The revenue will come primarily from uncapping the Oil Company Franchise Tax and from raising license and registration fees.  These measures will be phased in over the next five years.  The state’s liquid fuels tax, now at 12 cents per gallon, is eliminated in the legislation.

The bill increases the maximum speed limit in the state from 65 to 70 miles per hour and increases the prevailing wage threshold for locally funded highway and bridge projects from $25,000 to $100,000. The bill provides for a bridge building program and updates and repairs to traffic signals.
During floor debate, Sen. Rafferty told his colleagues that the House insisted on prevailing wage changes and urged an affirmative vote. Senate Democrats attempted to offer an amendment that would have stripped prevailing wage language from the bill, but were not recognized for the amendment. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi said that without the prevailing wage addition, the chambers would be looking at “a stalemate position”, which was not an acceptable alternative.
The House narrowly passed its own funding package on Tuesday, after the same measure failed twice on Monday.
Among other items that were removed from SB 1 in negotiating the package were changes to the alternative fuels taxes and inclusion of a “user fee” for electric vehicles.  Leaders have said those changes would be taken up later in the session in a bill anticipated to make any necessary technical corrections in HB 1060.