Pending Mass Transit Plan Fatally Flawed
7/2/2007
The transportation plan (House Bill 1590) recently pushed through the state legislature contains a number of fundamental problems, and is not in the best interests of Chester County. As a result, we, the Republican members of the Chester County state house delegation, opposed it.
 
We agree the state does need to develop a permanent funding solution to our Commonwealth's transportation demands. Effective and efficient transportation is critical to sustaining our economic prosperity and helping to deal with the pressures of development in our area. That said, this particular bill, based on the manner in which it is written and presented is not the way to go forward.
 
Of major concern, this transportation bill is fundamentally unfair to the taxpayers of Chester County. First, under this legislation, a slew of new local taxes could be imposed upon the residents of Chester County. These taxes could include a local sales tax, a local earned income tax and a local hotel tax. Simply foisting this taxation burden upon our local governments, to deal with state transportation issues, is not the hallmark of leadership; this is a classic case of "pass the buck."
 
Secondly, Chester County taxpayers' share of the transportation bailout is projected to shoot up by 50 percent. On top of this, it should be noted that Chester County actually receives the least amount of service from SEPTA in the five-county greater Philadelphia region. Worse yet, under this plan Philadelphia will decrease its financial contributions to the mass transit system, while at the same time it will be allowed to expand how much service is run in the city. 
 
Most seriously, the new basis for calculating where to have service is not consistent with solid management principles. The new formula moves away from making critical service decisions on the basis of number of passengers actually riding any given route and toward making these decisions simply on the basis of number of miles on which a train or bus or subway could run. The number of miles does not necessarily bear any relationship to how many passengers actually are riding any given route, and this unfairly favors Philadelphia to the detriment of the suburban counties.
 
This shift in how decisions about routes and funding will be determined reflects another consideration: that the makeup of SEPTA's governing board also turns over as a result of this legislation. The bill will shift the balance of power on the board to the city of Philadelphia and away from the suburban counties, including Chester. That action alone will allow the city of Philadelphia to veto suburban priorities and interests in relation to routes, fares and times of service decisions. The Republican state representatives of the other suburban counties agree the bill will create many problems if it remains in current form.
 
It further should be noted that on June 28 a letter from James D. Ray, chief counsel for the Federal Highway Administration, confirmed the fact that toll money collected by the proposed tolling of Interstate 80 across northern Pennsylvania, which is also part of the bill, cannot legally be put into mass transit systems. A court challenge, already threatened by a number of interests, likely would find an effort to divert toll money to mass transit to be illegal and therefore not allowed. This will only lead to more tax increases at the local level.
 
For all of these reasons and others, we could not, in good conscience, vote for this bill. Quite simply, the legislation is fundamentally unfair to the suburban counties around Philadelphia. 
 
In the alternative, there are funding options available that make the proper investment in our state's transportation needs and do so without excessive local tax increases. We can and we must continue to work in good faith to negotiate a reasoned, workable plan to fund mass transit, while caring for all of our transportation needs all across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.   
 
Rep. Art Hershey (R-13), Rep. Tim Hennessey (R-26), Rep. Carole Rubley (R-157), Rep. Curt Schroder (R-155), Rep. Chris Ross (R-158), Rep. Stephen Barrar, (R-160), Rep. Tom Killion (R-168) and Rep. Duane Milne (R-167).
 
Chester County Republican House Delegation
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: House Republican Public Relations
(717) 787-3993
www.pahousegop.com