Friday, October 8, 2010

PA gubernatorial candidates on transportation

In every election, savvy voters want to know what candidates have to say about issues of importance to them. In Pennsylvania, truckers know where the two men who are vying to become governor stand on transportation issues.

A thorough comparison between the candidates and their thoughts on how to go about achieving a comprehensive way to meet transportation funding needs has been put together by The Patriot-News. Included below is what Republican candidate Tom Corbett and Democratic nominee Dan Onorato had to say about transportation issues:

On increasing the fuel tax:

Corbett says he is opposed to a fuel tax hike. In hopes of convincing voters that they can believe him, he has signed a pledge stating he would not raise taxes or create any new ones. Instead, Corbett would rather replace the fuel tax sometime in the future with another revenue stream as vehicles become more fuel efficient.

Onorato agrees that they shouldn’t pursue a fuel tax increase. He said the state already has one of the highest tax rates at the pump.

On raising motor vehicle fees:

Corbett says he has “no intention” of boosting fees, such as vehicle registration and drivers’ license fees. However, he pointed out they are not prohibited under the no-tax pledge he signed.

Onorato says he also wants nothing to do with higher motor vehicle fees. Instead, he says the state should look for efficiencies and tighten its belt before talking about increasing fees.

It is good to hear talk about resisting the urge to reach deeper into the pockets of taxpayers with higher taxes or fees. The state should first take steps to ensure the revenue already coming in is used for its intended purpose. Hopefully, the new administration will do a much better job of using resources they already have than the Rendell administration has done.

On leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike or privatizing roads:

Corbett says he would consider selling public assets, such as the turnpike.

Onorato says he would promote partnerships with private groups that help the state complete projects that would otherwise be unfeasible. Unlike his opponent, he is opposed to selling assets such as the turnpike.

On tolling more roads:

Corbett says he would call on PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission to study the potential for new projects that expand roadway capacity as part of a statewide strategy for funding. Those projects could include establishing partnerships with local governments and private companies and creating high-occupancy vehicle lanes that charge drivers tolls.

Onorato says that user fees, such as tolls, could be considered for road construction that might not otherwise be financially viable but only after improving efficiencies with current taxpayer dollars.

It is disappointing to hear that Corbett appears to be cut from a similar cloth as Rendell – as far as leasing, or essentially selling, the turnpike. I cannot imagine there are too many people who will be casting ballots next month in Pennsylvania who support the pawnshop mentality of making existing infrastructure available to the highest bidder.

On State Police funding:

Corbett says he might consider moving the trooper funding from the state’s motor license fund to the general fund.

Onorato says the State Police should be paid for out of the state’s general fund.

It is encouraging to see that both candidates are open to weaning the State Police off the motor license fund.

When all the campaigning is done and voters make their decision on Nov. 2, hopefully whoever emerges the victor in the race for governor will take more cautious steps to address infrastructure needs than what has been seen in the past.