Neilson moves to free up more money to fix roads and bridges

The leader of the House Transportation Committee this week introduced a bill to ensure more of the tax revenue already collected to fund the construction and maintenance of Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure is used for its intended purpose. 

The committee’s majority chairman Ed Neilson, D-Phila., said the plan outlined in HB 1162, with bipartisan sponsorship, reflects the proposal made by Gov. Josh Shapiro to gradually reduce the portion of the state’s Motor License Fund being diverted to fund the State Police. 

“Drivers in Pennsylvania are keenly aware of the state tax they pay on the fuel they purchase,” Neilson said. “They’ve historically understood that this money goes for keeping roads and bridges in drivable condition. But in recent years a substantial part of that money has been going to the State Police, meaning fewer roads and bridges got the attention they need.  

“It’s time for the legislature to fix this and rededicate all of the gas tax money to our state’s transportation needs,” he said. 

The decades-old Motor License Fund is a dedicated state account consisting of gas tax revenue and money from other transportation-related license and vehicle fees. In recent years, increasing amounts were diverted from the fund annually to pay for State Police operations. The transfer peaked at over $800 million in the 2016-17 budget year but was gradually reduced by the General Assembly and the Wolf administration until it reached $500 million in the 2021-22 budget year. Since 2013, the State Police has received more than $6.3 billion that should have been spent on roads and bridges. 

Neilson’s bill would further reduce the transfer from the Motor License Fund to the State Police to $400 million in the upcoming budget year then reduce it by $100 million annually until reaching zero by 2027. This change would provide an additional $1.5 billion cumulatively over the next five years for road and bridge projects in Pennsylvania. 

Neilson’s bill would also set up a separate account for the State Police with separate funding sources. This Public Safety and Protection Fund would use other state tax revenues to support the State Police, leaving the Motor License Fund whole for its intended purpose of paying for major transportation projects. 

“Fully funding the State Police remains a top priority,” Neilson said. “The State Police provide an invaluable service to the commonwealth. They protect our communities, they protect us on the roads, they protect us while we sleep. The governor’s proposal as reflected in my bill will provide a dedicated source of funding to the State Police that is not subject to political squabbling.” 

Neilson and the House Transportation Committee held an informational meeting about the topic on April 11 at which PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll spoke in support. Neilson expects HB 1162 to be considered by the committee later this month.