FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Steven J. Santarsiero
Santarsiero: P3 bill is disservice to communities, taxpayers and motorists
HARRISBURG, April 4 – State Rep. Steven J. Santarsiero, D-Bucks, voted against legislation Wednesday that would create a seven-member board to create partnerships with private corporations around the world to operate, maintain, build and collect tolls on highways, bridges, tunnels, overpasses and other transportation facilities in the state.
Santarsiero said the legislation (H.B. 3) would fast track the leasing of highways and bridges without valuable public input and disclosure.
"It is a mistake to cede control of our public infrastructure and allow seven political appointees to toll I-95 and the other state roads or bridges we use every day without any input from the people or their elected representatives," Santarsiero said. "It also would allow those seven political appointees to potentially lease away our roads and bridges to foreign companies that would build, toll, and operate our critical infrastructure."
Santarsiero said while the bill would allow public-private partnerships for projects across the state, the reality is that such partnerships would only see a return on investment in more heavily traveled roads and bridges – a disproportionate number of them in the more heavily populated southeastern Pennsylvania.
"In reality, these partnerships would only be able to address about 15 percent of the total problem statewide," Santarsiero said. "The bill doesn’t come anywhere close to addressing the massive crisis Pennsylvania faces with regard to fixing our crumbling roads, bridges and public transit systems, and I could not support it."
Santarsiero voted against the measure in the House Transportation Committee and attempted to improve the bill by offering amendments when it was debated earlier this year. Of the four he offered, three were defeated and one was adopted. He remains disturbed by the lack of restriction in the bill on who can enter into the public-private partnerships.
The first amendment that Santarsiero proposed would have required the legislature to approve all P3 projects before leases were signed; the amendment was narrowly defeated. The second amendment that he proposed would have required 51 percent of all financing of P3 projects to be U.S.-financed; the amendment was defeated along party lines. Santarsiero's third amendment would have required that P3 projects contract with only American firms; that, too was defeated along party lines. The fourth amendment that he proposed -- and which was narrowly approved – would give priority in the selection process to businesses that commit to using U.S.- or Pa.-made construction materials, including steel, and those that commit to using Pa. workers.
"My amendments would have ensured American companies did the work and a greater degree of accountability to taxpayers," Santarsiero said. "Regrettably, they were defeated. I still believe it is the best course to enable that our vital infrastructure should be operated and maintained by American companies and not those who live and conduct business overseas. If citizens do not have quick redress, that is a major problem.
"My biggest concern is the lack of accountability to communities, taxpayers and motorists in the proposed public-private partnerships," Santarsiero added. "There is no reason we as public officials can't consider each application on a case-by-case basis in order to accommodate the concerns of local residents and their communities."
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.