Out of Control Policy Blog

Soaking the Rich...OK, Everybody...for PA Transit

This article from the Philadelphia Weekly describes how the Pennsylvania Transit Coalition (PTC)--a statewide alliance of labor, business, civic, religious and environmental groups--wants to "raise awareness" of the need for dedicated funding for the Commonwealth's mismanaged and broke public transit systems. They basically want new legislation that will rob Peter to pay for Paul's transit. Some of the ideas on the table:

    "Gov. Ed Rendell endorsed a bill introduced by Philadelphia Democratic Rep. Dwight Evans. The measure would raise $110 million to make up the transit funding shortfall for the current fiscal year for SEPTA, the Port Authority in Pittsburgh and smaller transit agencies across the state by increasing various fees.

    The driver's record fee would go up from $5 to $12; the motor vehicle rental fee would double, increasing from $2 to $4; the tax on new tires would increase from $1 to $3; and the state would implement a new emissions inspection sticker fee of $2.

    Rep. Keith McCall, the top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee, recently floated a proposal he hopes will win over rural colleagues demanding more money for road and bridge projects.

    One part of McCall's $580 million plan would raise the cost of annual vehicle registrations for passenger cars from $36 to $43, while SUV and minivan owners would have to shell out $50. McCall also proposes to make permanent the four-cent-a-gallon increase in the state gasoline tax that took effect Jan. 1.

    A third provision in McCall's plan mirrors a bill introduced by Philadelphia Democratic Sen. Vince Fumo. He recommends increasing the state realty transfer tax by half of a percent, to a total of 1.5 percent. That new revenue would be earmarked for helping Port Authority Transit in Allegheny County, SEPTA and smaller transit systems in Pennsylvania.

    PTC doesn't favor one measure over another, [PTC member Marc] Stier says."

Sure they don't. As long as "free" money is coming from someone's pockets to pour more money into the transit black hole, then PTC's objectives are met.

Notice though that there's no call for trimming transit bureaucracy and waste; opening transit up to private competition; higher fares to better reflect costs; performance-based management/budgeting; or any other types of market-based approaches that would force transit systems to actually step up, compete, and provide better service. The solutions so far boil down to one thing -- increase fees and taxes on Commonwealth residents in the stealthiest way possible. Truly sad.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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