Pa. transportation panel tackles shortfall

    As it puts together suggestions on energy policy, Gov. Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Commission has gotten a lot of attention. But another panel is quietly working on policy recommendations for the Corbett Administration, too, and its report could have a bigger impact on Pennsylvanians’ daily lives.

    The Transportation Funding Advisory Commission has a big challenge: it needs to figure out how to fill a multibillion-dollar funding gap, while working around Corbett’s vow to not increase taxes.

    PennDOT spokesman Dennis Buterbaugh says the commission recently listened to a presentation on tolling a stretch of Highway 422. “But,” he explained, “the commission is not going to make any decision on tolling a specific route, like 422. It was just a very good example of what’s involved, and could possibly, or possibly not, be a way to try and bridge some of this funding gap.”

    Buterbaugh said the commission is also considering ways to save money. No suggestion, he said, is too narrow.

    Ideas “can be something as small as eliminating the little sticker–the annual registration sticker–on your license plate. That can save the commonwealth some money. Many states have taken that step because it’s really just an unnecessary step now,” he said.

    Another possibility: extending drivers’ license renewal period. “Currently the driver’s license time is four years,” said Buterbaugh. “There’s been talk about possibly extending that, because again, that would be a cost-savings to the commonwealth. They won’t have to go through that process of processing someone’s driver’s license more than every four years, if they can go five years, six years, perhaps longer.”

    The federal government’s rejection of an Interstate 80 tolling scheme, as well as other factors, led to a funding gap of more than $3 billion. Last year, former Gov. Ed Rendell convened a special legislative session to fill the hole, and called for an increased gasoline tax, among other ideas. None of his suggestions ever came to a vote.

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