Fiscal conservation stalls transportation plan
SUNBURY–Plans for the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway project have once again stalled. The House of Representatives was unable to come to an agreement on a transportation plan during the summer session. State Representative Fred Keller (R-85th, Kreamer) said fiscal conservation and an aversion to raising taxes could be the cause. He said proposals to fund state improvements using vehicle sales taxes would not cover the necessary costs.
“It doesn’t do the trick—it doesn’t do all of it. But I think it’s something we can look at and say ‘how do we do this.’ You know, I just think there are some people that think ‘I’ll just cut other areas of the budget,’ which I don’t know that we can do that. I think we’ve been pretty responsible the last couple years with that. I think we need to look at additional revenue. I know we’ve had this conversation and I would have liked to have the bill come through the house floor for a vote.”
With 100 amendments hanging on the bill and an added $700 million to Governor Corbett’s original plan, the newly revised transportation plan could be lost in translation for longer than expected. Blaming bi-partisan politics and media-created controversy for the stalled plans, Keller said he is doing his best to represent a divided state in an even more divided House.
“To me it is not a partisan issue with things. I mean everyone has their idea and their part of the state to represent. I think we’re at a point where we can’t afford not to do something. Can I guarantee how other people are going to behave? But I can say that I’ll work on a responsible answer to what we need to get done.”
Keller also talked about education funding. “We were warned”, said Keller of education budget cuts, citing a 2010 article in the New York Times claiming that gaps in education funding would prevail once the federal stimulus money was gone. Amid education budget cuts and an increasing debt, he said current school district employees are paying not into their own pensions, but for contracted retirees. But who will pay their earned pensions? With salaries growing at $5 million above the rate of inflation over a 10-year period, Keller said something’s got to give. (Carrie Haines)