Transportation Funding Advisory Commission Status Report

Information below is from PPTA UPDATE-TFAC Meeting #4:

The Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission (TFAC)met for the fourth time on Monday, June 27. As has become the pattern, most of the morning was spent with presentations, while the afternoon was devoted to discussion. Rich Farr and Hugh Mose, along with SEPTA Board member Kevin Johnson, represented the transit industry. In the audience were Michelle Schultz, Toby Fauver and LaVerne Collins.

This time the presentations included a report on the status of the General Fund, a review of Pennsylvania’s ports (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Erie) and a brief summary (by Toby) of the state’s intercity passenger rail program. The main focus of the meeting, however, was a review of five representative funding packages that had been assembled by PennDOT staff to illustrate the levels of highway/bridge and transit support that could be generated under different revenue assumptions. View these funding scenarios by clicking here (PDF).

In reading through the material prior to the meeting, both Rich and I had grave reservations about what some of the proposals meant. For instance, it appeared that the suggested “grab bag” of fees would be a big step backwards, as the funding might never fully materialize and would always be at risk. Likewise, at first glance it looked like one of the major sources of funding was a substantial increase in local matching funds. Needless to say, going into the meeting both of us were very concerned that the outcome would be detrimental to our interests.

During the TFAC discussion of the funding packages, we were relieved to find that the additional local match was not an increase in the percentage required, but simply the added local match that would be required at the current 15% level if state assistance was increased. Likewise, when Rich, Kevin Johnson and others raised different concerns, there was support around the table for our position, such as increasing transit funding more quickly than had been proposed, converting the various proposed fee increases into a higher percentage of state sales tax receipts, having flexibility between operating and capital funding, and lowering expectations of the immediate savings from “modernizations.”

At the end of the meeting it was agreed that the Secretary and the PennDOT staff would rework the funding packages into no more than two or three options that would form the basis of the TFAC’s recommendation to the Governor. The plan is for these new packages to be put together within the next week, and formed into a draft report that will be circulated to TFAC members prior to the next (and final) meeting scheduled for July 18th. On that date the TFAC is to meet via conference call, and is expected to vote to approve the recommendations.

It should be noted that in addition to the funding packages, there are other funding sources that still need to be addressed – such as the authority to toll roadways to support corridor improvements, and increased local taxing authority for communities to generate additional funds for their transit programs.  However, since these approaches involve larger issues than just increased fees, savings and modernizations, they will be handled separately.

If you have questions or comments about the TFAC and the direction the process is heading, please visit http://www.tfac.pa.gov/

Regards,

Hugh Mose


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