Conklin unveils transportation funding reform
HARRISBURG, May 15 – Centre County state Rep. Scott Conklin today unveiled a multi-bill package designed to address Pennsylvania's transportation funding shortfall, promote the expansion of alternative fuel usage and spur immediate job creation.
At a Capitol news conference, Conklin said he is introducing transportation funding reform legislation, which includes a measure that would collect revenue by instituting a natural gas severance fee, as well as implementing a business tax policy called combined reporting.
"We're missing out. Point blank," Conklin said. "Failing to collect revenue from two sources that are right at our fingertips is a missed opportunity. My plan would avoid the governor's plan that attacks the pockets of nearly every Pennsylvanian, especially middle-class families."
Conklin's plan would enact a severance fee based on the amount of natural gas extracted from a Marcellus Shale-related gas well within the Commonwealth. It is estimated that within the first year of imposing a severance fee of 5 cents per 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas extracted at the wellhead, an additional $111 million of revenue would be created.
In addition, by closing the so-called Delaware Loophole, which is created by large corporations using tax avoidance strategies to evade paying their fair share of taxes, Conklin said the state would receive $775 million in additional funding within one year of enactment.
"In just the first year alone, an additional $886 million could go to roads, bridges and mass transit systems," Conklin said. "Not one penny, not one dime of that would come from you, me or any Pennsylvanian. Can Governor Corbett say the same?
"His plan is balanced on the backs of working, middle-class Pennsylvanians. I have never seen a governor with such disdain for working people."
Conklin's second proposal would allocate revenue generated from a natural gas severance fee for the advancement of natural gas vehicles in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection would administer the funding through the Natural Gas Energy Development Program.
"This would allow the state to set aside funding to develop the infrastructure necessary to steer us to using a cleaner and more efficient fuel," Conklin said. "Adding natural gas compressor stations across the state is the first step toward incentivizing Pennsylvanians to buy a natural gas-powered vehicle. It's a ripple effect that could have innumerable financial and environmental benefits."
Conklin's transportation funding reform package also includes legislation that would change the weight restriction level for motor vehicles registered in Pennsylvania. Any construction vehicle that is retrofitted to use an alternative source for fuel purposes would be exempt from the maximum gross weight restrictions within 2,000 pounds of the current restriction.
Currently under Pennsylvania law, vehicles cannot exceed a maximum gross weight of 80,000 pounds if traveling on the state's highways.
"An alternative fuel retrofit can add up to 1,500 pounds to a vehicle," Conklin said. "It's a catch-22.
Because many of these vehicles weigh in just shy of the current limit already, any retrofit would send them well over the legal limit.
"By allowing this exemption, we would be able to further protect our environment while supporting the alternative energy industries in Pennsylvania."