Mar. 04, 2024

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Secretary Mike Carroll, Executive Deputy Secretary Larry Shifflet, Director of Fiscal Management Chuck Zimmerman, Deputy Secretary for Multimodal Transportation Meredith Biggica, Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration Mike Rebert, Deputy Secertary for Driver, and Vehicle Services Kara Templeton, and Director of Equitable Transportation Nicole Tyler testified this morning before the House Appropriations Committee.

House Republicans asked several questions about the Governor’s proposal to dedicate an additional 1.75% of sales tax collections, or $283 million, for public transit funding, and how this funding would be distributed throughout the Commonwealth. Additionally, Republicans inquired about requiring electric vehicles to contribute to the Motor License Fund, PennDOT contracts for snow removal and travel brochures, the overall state of road projects throughout the Commonwealth, and automatic voter registration.

Key Takeaways

· The Governor is proposing spending an additional $283 million on public transit through the permanent dedication of an additional 1.75% of sales tax collections, the majority of which will end up supporting the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). House Republicans expressed skepticism in bailing out failing mass transit systems like SEPTA.

     o Before sending more money to mass transit agencies, committee members would like to see the current amount of reserves held by SEPTA and other transit providers and have them engage in cost cutting measures as well as right-sizing services to meet the lower demands.

· Electric vehicles are becoming more popular in Pennsylvania. Whenever a vehicle operator buys gas in Pennsylvania, they pay a gas tax which is deposited into the Motor License Fund and used to fix and maintain our roads and bridges. Since electric vehicles do not use gas, these vehicles aren’t contributing to the Motor License Fund. PennDOT and the General Assembly must work together to create a way for these vehicles to pay their fair share.

· PennDOT contracts were also questioned by committee members for transparency and deliverables.

     o Currently PennDOT has a vendor to provide travel brochures throughout the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, it has been discovered the contractor filled these displays with brochures for travel destinations outside of the Commonwealth. House Republicans have asked for an answer on why this is occurring.

     o Another issue that was raised is the costs of snow removal contracts where PennDOT is unable to directly employee snowplow drivers.

· Committee members asked about various work projects throughout the Commonwealth, and if delays in construction are related to a lack of skilled workers, permits, or supply chain issues. There was no common theme, but a variety of all these issues seem to be present in delays.

· When so-called “automatic voter registration” was rolled out by the Shapiro Administration, it was done so with the promise of cost savings for counties. Just as with the Department of State, no cost savings were identified by PennDOT through this change.

Notable Q&A

Rep. Torren Ecker discusses options for electric vehicles to contribute to the Motor License Fund. 

Rep. Natalie Mihalek asks PennDOT Sec. Carroll why Pennsylvania taxpayers are footing the bill for a company to display travel brochures for other states. 

Rep. Eric Nelson asks PennDOT Sec. Carroll if the Public Transit Funding Formula is working or needs to be revised to ensure equity before adding the proposed $283 million in spending. 

Full Hearing

Watch the full hearing here.

Rep. Seth Grove, Republican Chairman of the PA House Appropriations Committee
196th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives