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PA Gov Tom Corbett's Transpo Funding Fix: A Tax on Fossil Fuel

11:26 AM EST on January 24, 2013

Oh, the lengths governors around the country will go to in order to avoid raising the gas tax.

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Recently we've seen Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell propose eliminating his state's gas tax and replacing it with a sales tax, while Deval Patrick in Massachusetts went the more moderate but still disappointing route of calling for an income tax hike to pay for transportation.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, however, has proposed something a little different. Corbett, who has promised not to raise taxes, is looking to get more revenue by jettisoning the limit on an existing tax on oil companies, reports Transportation for America:

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Governor “intends to uncap the so-called oil company franchise tax,” allowing this tax to be applied to the full wholesale price of fuel, rather than an artificially limited $1.25 per gallon level. Removing this limit would eventually yield nearly $2 billion annually, according to information from the administration.

Pennsylvania’s key location as a shipping crossroads, rugged topography, cold weather and massive backlog of aging rails, roads and bridges have made the commonwealth a perfect example of the critical infrastructure problems affecting so many states. And like the rest of the country, declining gas tax revenues due to increasing fuel economy standards and/or reduced driving results in less available revenue as needs continue to grow.

But what T4A is most curious about is whether Corbett will squander the new revenue on widening highways or if he will choose to channel it toward the state's existing systems that are screaming for attention -- not the least of which is Pittsburgh's crisis-wracked transit network.

Pennsylvania has the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the US, according to our report “The Fix We’re in For.” More than 26 percent of PA bridges – almost 6,000 in total – are in need of significant repairs and maintenance.

Just tackling the state’s vast backlog of road and bridge repair needs could consume every penny of the new funding source, according to 2008 figures from FHWA, gathered in Smart Growth America’s Repair Priorities report for Pennsylvania...

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh transit system was rocked by massive proposed cuts last year – as much as cutting service by one third. Though the funding gap was resolved without drastic cuts, there’s no long term funding solution for Pittsburgh transit on the horizon.

Elsewhere on the Network today: U.S. DOT's The Fast Lane reports that California High Speed Rail just passed a couple of milestones. The Naked City cheers Charlotte's efforts to crack down on obstructions in the sidewalks. And The Dirt focuses on Latin America's struggle to contain a growing car culture.

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