Pa. Has At Least An $eight Billion Annual Funding Deficit, Proposes To Substitute Fuel Tax – CBS Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pennsylvania has a serious transportation problem without the funding mechanism to fix it.

That’s the conclusion of the Transportation Revenue Options Commission, which delivered its 40-page report to Governor Tom Wolf on Friday.

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“Right now, we are looking at an $8 billion (annual) gap in what we need,” said PennDOT’s Executive Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula.

It’s not hard to see how Pennsylvania has fallen behind in repairing its roads and bridges, along with underfunding public transit, waterways, trains and other modes of transportation.

But the problem is exacerbated by the number of state-maintained roads in this state compared to others, Batula told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

“When you look at our mileage of roads, we’re bigger than – if you add in New York, New Jersey, and all those New England states combined, we have more state-owned systems than they do,” Batula said.

Add hundreds of miles of interstate highways built more than 50 years ago in the commonwealth, says Batula, “We’re at that point of time when most of that system needs a flat-out overhaul. It needs to be rebuilt.”

But all that takes a lot of money and here’s another problem — the old-fashioned way we fund PennDOT.

“What’s unique about Pennsylvania is how much we are reliant on the gas tax. Nearly three-quarters of our funding comes from the gas tax. You look at other states and they use a whole different funding mix,” Batula said.

The problem with the gas tax is it no longer brings in the dollars needed, as cars become more fuel-efficient and electric vehicles pay no gas tax for using the roads.

“That means the revenues from gas haven’t gone up. In fact, they’ve gone down,” Batula said.

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T-ROC — comprised of local and state lawmakers, experts, and transportation stakeholders — predicted PennDOT would need $11 billion in additional money in five years, and this state’s unusual reliance on the gas tax for most of its funding just won’t cut it.

“You’re seeing fuel efficiency going up, which means the amount of gas people are buying is going down, which means the revenue we’ve been getting from the gas tax goes down,” Batula said.

T-ROC recommends replacing the gasoline tax with a number of revenue raisers, starting with a fee on electric vehicles.

“It would be a $275 registration fee specifically for electric vehicles,” Batula said.

That’s in the short term. In the long term, T-ROC suggests replacing the gasoline tax with a vehicle mileage tax, charging every vehicle owner based on the number of miles they drive that car each year.

Depending on how much you drive, you could end up paying more than the gasoline tax.

“Is it going to be 8 cents per mile? Is it going to be 6 cents per mile? I think there’s going to be a lot of discussions before that gets set in,” said Batula.

Another source of dollars — double or triple the state’s registration fee. Or replace the registration fee with an ad valorem vehicle tax, something half the states already do. This would tax new cars more than older ones.

Other revenue raisers include a dollar fee or so on every ride-share you take on Uber or Lyft or for every package you have delivered to your home. Of course, another way to raise money is to toll more roads and bridges.

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None of these proposals will happen quickly. Most of these changes require legislative approval. Late Friday, the House Republican Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff threw cold water on the recommendations, calling them “ill-timed and short-sighted.”

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