Budget Hearings in Harrisburg

This is budget season in the Capitol, and as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have been privy to many hours of testimony from the state’s agencies concerning their funding needs and desires. Tuesday’s hearing was with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which will soon be facing a fiscal cliff that will greatly affect Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs. Here’s a small window into the issue:

Since 2013, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has been required, by Act 89, to provide PennDOT with $450 million annually to fund public transit.

However, the law also directs the Turnpike Commission payments to PennDOT for public transit to drop to $50 million annually in 2022. From that point on, the law stipulates that $450 million will be provided to PennDOT annually from the state’s General Fund.

This is a fiscal cliff. Starting in 2022, public transit will no longer receive dedicated funding in the commonwealth’s annual budget. This means that the funding it does receive will not be guaranteed. As a result, public transit systems like SEPTA are not able to plan for the future. And all of you who rely on SEPTA for transportation? It is you I’m thinking of in these meetings.