The Lead

‘The time for kicking the can down the road is over’: House Republicans plan infrastructure report

By: - July 24, 2019 12:27 pm

With an eye on improving Pennsylvania’s crumbling bridges and pot-holed roads, Republicans who control the state House announced Monday they are starting a legislative infrastructure task force to look for solutions.

“As employers and companies thriving in our economy look to expand, Pennsylvania is still missing out,” House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said in a statement. “Our infrastructure must exceed the needs of employers if we hope to attract the next generation of business leaders to Pennsylvania.”

The group, chaired by Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia, will draw its membership from 10 lawmakers from across the state.

“The time for kicking the can down the road is over,” White told the Capital-Star. She said she hopes to have a report for the House Republican majority by the time the General Assembly returns to session in mid-September.

The task force had yet to plan any public meetings, according to White. In a statement, Republicans said the task force will take a close look at transportation funding as well as “economic growth, security and State Police needs.”

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The release added that the group hopes to take next steps on infrastructure improvements “without putting any additional burdens on taxpayers.”

Since passing the county’s highest gas tax in 2013 under former GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania has replaced more than 550 structurally deficient bridges and advanced 2,600 transportation projects, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

But that was only enough to improve the commonwealth’s roads to a D+, according to the society’s 2018 report. Overall, Pennsylvania’s highways, dams, sewers, and tunnels earned a C- grade.

Gov. Tom Wolf has his own infrastructure plan, Restore PA, that he has been shopping to the General Assembly since February. It calls for $4.5 billion in investments in everything from blight mediation, stormwater projects, and rural broadband expansion to more typical spending on public transit, bridges, and roads.

The plan has broad support, but the funding mechanism — floating billions of dollars worth of bonds which are proposed to be paid off by future revenues from a tax on natural gas production — has drawn stern rebukes from House Republican leadership and progressive Democrats.

White said the task force is not meant to counter Restore PA, but instead address the state’s own serious infrastructure problems.

Restore Pennsylvania, explained: Everything you need to know about Gov. Tom Wolf’s infrastructure plan

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.