State’s roads deserve priority; how to do it more elusive issue

It isn’t very often that a Pennsylvania governor proposes something that has the backing of leaders from both major political parties.

Such is the case with Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposal to raise gas taxes and fees to bring in $1.8 billion for transportaion improvements in the state.

Count us among those who are thrilled that transportation funding is getting a groundswell of support among differing factions in Harrisburg.

But the details are very important in this case. How the state raises the $1.8 billion is the most important part of the proposal.

For our part, we like the thoughts of Rep. Stephen Bloom, a Cumberland County Republican. Hesitant to raise gasoline taxes on Pennsylvania residents, he favors shifting Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission responsibilities to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, lifting prevailing wage requirements for municipal road projects and demanding more cost savings from mass transit agencies.

In other words, Bloom wants to raise the money through savings first. What a novel concept.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty, a Montgomery County Republican, ups the ante on Corbett, proposing a $2.5 billion plan that lets the turnpike commission alone.

Democrat leaders, while backing a transportation funding infusion, want to maintain the commission, the usual prevailing wage measures, and increase tax and fees. That sounds like more of the same-old, same-old that the state can’t afford.

Our sense is that the best course would be slight increases in gas taxes and fees, abolition of the turnpike commission that leads to sale of assets to private management, reforms in prevailing wage laws and savings wherever they can be found in the transportation arm of state government.

Anyone spending anytime behind a steering wheel knows that Pennsylvania’s roads are among the nation’s worst and need attention. How to get it done without bankrupting state residents is a tougher question.