Pennsylvania’s 2011-12 fiscal year is quickly coming to a close. After many months of analyzing the Governor’s proposed cuts to next year’s state budget, the Senate Democrats have offered our budget priorities and solutions to restore lost funding and revenue from the Governor’s budget plan.
To move forward, I believe we must focus on growing our economy. By investing in our economy, we invest in our future. The Commonwealth can take a first step by funding our transportation infrastructure. All Pennsylvanians use our transportation system in one form or another. Whether you travel our roads on a bus, burn coal to heat your house that traveled through our state by train, or buy a product at the grocery store that arrived through one of our state’s ports, it is essential we continue to invest in our state’s transportation network.
Last summer the Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission recommended a $2.7 billion plan to rebuild our crumbling transportation infrastructure system. However, the General Assembly has not been presented any proposal that would enact any of these recommendations. For that reason, the Senate Democrats are calling upon the state to employ Grant Application Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) Bonds, which would fund a $1 billion short-term transportation plan.
GARVEE bonds allow governmental entities to fund highway and transit projects by issuing debt backed by future federal highway funds. In other words, GARVEEs would enable Pennsylvania to accelerate construction timelines and spread the cost of the need over its useful life rather than just the construction period. These bonds would not impact the state’s General Fund because state funds cannot be used for payment of debt service, due to constitutional limitations.
GARVEE bonds would not only help ease Pennsylvania’s transportation crisis, but also aid our economy’s growth by creating jobs for thousands across the state and spurring the production of local materials needed for transportation projects. With the warmer weather approaching and construction season under way, it is imperative that the Commonwealth issues these bonds so they can be utilized to their fullest.
At least 35 other states have authorized GARVEE bonds and my hope is that, with some pressure, Pennsylvania can join in and start reaping some of the benefits. Although this is not a long-term solution, our state must look for alternative ways to alleviate the transportation crisis while we work to develop a more comprehensive funding package.
Senator Wayne D. Fontana
42nd Senatorial District