With President Joe Biden planning to unveil an expected $ 3 trillion infrastructure and clean energy package in Pittsburgh on Wednesday afternoon, the outlook for state infrastructure plans in Pennsylvania remains bleak amid ongoing political tensions.
In late January, Governor Tom Wolf sent a letter to the state’s Congressional delegation informing them that Pennsylvania needed funding to repair its roads, highways, bridges, and railroads and asking them to support an infrastructure bill.
“With more than 120,000 miles of state and local highways, Pennsylvania has one of the largest transportation networks in the county, but it is in desperate need of assistance,” Wolf wrote.
Earlier this month, Wolf appeared at a videoconference at which, according to WHYY-FM in Philadelphia, he described government stimulus money as a “heavenly opportunity” that he would ideally use to tackle crumbling roads and bridges.
At the same time, Wolf seemed to complain that the Republicans would not follow his suggestions.
“If the federal government will give us $ 7 billion, I can guarantee that Republicans will say, ‘Let’s keep kicking the can down the street. And I think that’s unfortunate, ”he said.
Now his administration is trying to get the Republican-led Senate to follow a massive infrastructure plan for the state.
“PennDOT currently has an annual gap of $ 8.1 billion in funding needs for highways and bridges, and that gap is growing every year,” said Wolf spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensinger on Monday.
“In addition, further investments must be made in rail and local transport. The governor has asked Congress to prioritize the critical infrastructure requirements to move Pennsylvania forward, and we are encouraged that this is a priority for (US) Secretary (Pete) Buttigieg as well. ”
Wolf recently announced the formation of a Transportation Revenue Options Commission to develop a comprehensive flow of funding for state infrastructure, while reiterating his hope that alternatives would allow Pennsylvania to eliminate the country’s second-highest gas tax after California.
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Where republicans stand
Republicans, who control both the State House and the Senate, have not committed to any particular spending plans for stimulus money.
The state is receiving $ 15 billion for a variety of needs to help address the pandemic and budget deficits of schools as well as state and local governments.
“Building better infrastructure in Pennsylvania is a complex process that requires innovative solutions. We are examining where and how funds can be properly invested to maximize the dollars to be spent, “Westmoreland County Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward said in a statement to the USA TODAY Network’s Pennsylvania Capitol Bureau.
“I am confident that the Transportation Task Force recently formed by Governor Wolf will offer comprehensive and advanced solutions for the Senate to review and consider, not just tax increases,” she said.
House GOP spokesman Jason Gottesman said lawmakers are “still waiting for guidance from the federal government” on how to spend the money and it is “premature” to discuss plans.
“It is insincere for the governor to accuse us of failing to support a plan that he did not even present in detail, especially by this governor who has historically and monumentally been disconnected – if not directly – from direct interaction with Republican lawmakers against it, “said Gottesman.
“If the governor is serious about advancing Pennsylvania, he should move away from political stance and floating amorphous concepts in the press,” said Gottesman. “Instead, he should develop concrete plans, find supportive House Democrats to introduce laws, and work with lawmakers to sell his ideas.”
Biden back in Pittsburgh
Against this controversial political backdrop, Biden will return to the Pittsburgh area, where he made three stops the day before election day last year to see details of his infrastructure plan at the same Carpenters Hall where he campaigned for U.S. Representative Conor Build Back Better to announce Lamb, D-Allegheny County, in 2018.
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Pittsburgh’s strong union ties, coupled with its technology-driven economy, should provide Biden with an appropriate framework for an infrastructure and renewable energy plan that the organized labor force said would be a boon to workers across Pennsylvania and the nation.
On Monday, Buttigieg said on CNN that Biden would not try to fund the infrastructure plan by increasing gas taxes or introducing a mileage tax that would include electronic vehicles.
Instead, Biden appears to be calling for corporate tax hikes as well as high-income tax hikes, but the White House hasn’t released any details.
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JD Prose is a reporter for the Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau on the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at email@example.com.