Transportation bill 'not quite dead yet'

Will they or won't they vote it again?

That was the question being asked around the Capitol today about the fate of the $2.3 billion transportation bill that was defeated last night.

A top House Republican aide - Dave Thomas - Tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the "Micozzie amendment" would be voted today and the "Hanna amendment" would not.

The translation? The proposal sponsored by Rep. Nick Micozzie (R., Delaware) which contains the entire transportation funding package plus changes to the prevailing wage law which lost last night, could be again brought up for a vote when the House returns to session tonight.

A second proposal, sponsored by Rep. Mike Hanna (D., Centre), contains the same transportation funding language, but without the prevailing wage changes.

By Tuesday afternoon one veteran Republican was quoting Monty Python to describe the state of the transportation bill in general: "Not quite dead yet," said Rep. Kate Harper (R., Montgomery.)

Former Gov. Ed Rendell - who appeared at a rally Monday with Gov. Corbett in support of the bill - came out swinging at fellow Democrats Tuesday, telling KYW-Newsradio that they were "wusses" for not voting for it.

The 98-103 roll call late Monday night split in all directions, with Philly's Democratic delegation largely supporting the proposal and many Pittsburgh and southwest Democrats opposing it.

Rural anti-tax Republicans voted against it, while more moderate suburban Republicans - many of whom have constituents that ride SEPTA - voted for it.

The vote even divided GOP leadership. House Speaker Sam Smith of Jefferson County mustered a mere 59 "yes" votes among 112 Republicans on Monday, while House Majority leader Mike Turzai of Allegheny County voted against it.

Democrats contributed 39 "yes" votes with many of their members saying they did not want to support the prevailing wage change that would increase the threshold for transportation projects that must pay union-scale wages.

"Last night was not about transportation, it was about wages for workers," said House Minority leader Frank Dermody (D., Allegheny).

Even though he didn't support the bill with prevailing wage changes, Dermody said House Democrats "did out part" to support the bill and criticized those bringing politics into it.

"We did more than our share on a bill that was troublesome for our caucus," he said, adding the Republicans won the election, "now is the time to govern."

Corbett, who has made the passage of a transportation funding bill his top legislative priority,said Monday he was "extremely disappointed with the vote and blamed "partisan politics" for the defeat.

The House vote came after months of negotiations following a solid victory with the Senate’s 45-5 passage of a $2.5 billion transportation plan in June.

But the clock is ticking as the legislature prepares to break for the Thanksgiving recess this week, returning only for two weeks in December.

Hope for passage of a bill containing a tax increase dwindles considerably in 2014 as Corbett, all members of the state House and half the Senate stand for reelection.

The proposal as it is written now would increase gasoline taxes and motorists’ fees to eventually raise more than $2.3 billion a year, primarily for roads, bridges and mass transit systems. Lifting the cap on the oil franchise tax could mean an increase of as much as 28 cents per gallon at the pump.

My colleague Paul Nussbaum, who covers transportation issues, considers what no action on a transportation funding bill would mean for the southeast here.






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