By Tony Romeo
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – Hopes for legislation that would provide a major infusion of funds for roads, bridges and mass transit have been dealt a serious setback in the Pennsylvania House. It’s unclear if the House will take up the issue again later today after the defeat of a transportation funding amendment last night.
Montgomery County House Republican Kate Harper exhorted her colleagues to vote yes for an amendment that would have raised about $2.3 billion a year for transportation.
“I have to tell you that if we don’t vote for this amendment, though, I’m really afraid that we will have lost the chance for the next 10 years to pass a comprehensive bill to fund transportation,” Harper said. “I really think it’s that critical, and I really think it’s a do-or-die moment.”
But that moment was lost Monday night when the transportation funding amendment failed by an initial vote of 98 to 103. A second vote on the measure saw even more “yes” votes drop off.
The amendment was supported by Governor Corbett, but was opposed by Republicans like Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County.
“The Corbett gas tax increase that’s included in this will set us up to have the highest gas tax in the country,” Metcalfe said. Some Republicans felt the measure was too expensive.
And Democrats like Montgomery County’s Steve McCarter didn’t like it because of provisions dealing with wages for workers on state-funded projects.
McCarter said, “The one piece in this bill that rankles more than anything else is the attack on prevailing wage.”
Philadelphia House Democrat Mark Cohen said the amendment is not one that he would have written, “But it is a compromise. It is something that moves us forward, and solves urgent public problems in mass transit and in the highways and bridges of our Commonwealth.” But not enough House members were in the mood to compromise.
After the defeat of the amendment, Steve Miskin – spokesman for the House Republican majority leader – criticized Democratic leaders for voting against it.
“The Democrat leader who knew the plan, who negotiated the bill, voted against what he negotiated,” Miskin said.
But Bill Patton, spokesman for the House Democratic leader, said his boss never agreed to a GOP provision in the amendment that would weaken the law covering workers on government-funded projects.
“Huh. The Democratic leaders never voted a bill with prevailing wage in it.”
Legislative leaders have indicated that the transportation bill is likely dead for this session without action this week.