Jenna Portnoy of The Morning Call in Allentown files this report from the House Transportation Committee hearing Thursday on the state's transportation funding crisis:
You know the state’s transportation funding situation is dire when even the chamber of commerce is OK with a fuel tax increase.
"Reasonable user fees make sense,’’ civil engineer Peter Terry said on behalf of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber. The Chamber hasn’t advocated for a specific amount, but estimates range from adding 10 to 50 cents a gallon. The current tax on gasoline is 31.2 cents a gallon; on diesel, it’s 38.1 cents a gallon.
Terry joined dozens of business and government leaders who testified Thursday before the House Transportation Committee at DeSales University in Center Valley. The meeting was the third of seven planned across the state to explain the extent of the crisis and gather feedback on potential solutions.
Before the hearing, committee Chairman Joseph Markosek, D-Allegheny, and ranking Republican Rick Geist of Blair County said they agree government has to solve the problem; calls for smaller government don’t apply in this case.
The bipartisan effort comes at a time when the governor, House and half the Senate’s seats are up for grabs. Republican nominee for governor Tom Corbett has pledged not to raise taxes; Democratic nominee Dan Onorato has not.
Although a 2006 report identified a $1.7 billion annual shortfall, the amount has since more than doubled, to $3.5 billion, Markosek and Geist said.
"We’re so far in the hole it’s pathetic,’’ Geist said.
"We have a geriatric infrastructure in Pennsylvania,’’ Markosek said.
Photo: Rep. Rick Geist