The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Monday (March 16), sent home all toll booth operators. Motorists who don’t have E-ZPass will have their license automatically photographed and a bill for the toll sent to them. A man-made traffic snarl has just ended. Will the toll booth takers ever come back?
Commonwealth Foundation has created a well-thought plan to save the state. Call it a Prosperous Pennsylvania Blueprint. Below is the executive summary. The complete report in the form of a pdf can be found here. For the record, BillLawrenceOnline most vehemently opposes leasing the Turnpike, which is a public resource. Our suggestion is to make it a freeway eliminating traffic snarls and allowing for far more entrances and, especially, egresses to be built . This would increase its utility and improve traffic flow in Pennsylvania far less expensively than building new roads.
It should further be noted that expensive I-76 makes the Port of Philadelphia less competitive with New York/New Jersey — no tolls on I-80 after all — and tolls are a rather inefficient way of collecting revenue due to the cost of infrastructure and personnel.
And E-ZPass, frankly has too much of a hint of Big Brother for us.
Freedom is good.
By Elizabeth Stelle, Bob Dick, Jessica Barnett
Over the past six fiscal years, the commonwealth has spent more than it has taken in. This fiscal gap is projected to widen as expenditures are on pace to grow faster than future revenue. Such a structural deficit poses a threat to the very foundations of economic growth and job creation that lead to prosperity for Pennsylvania’s taxpayers.
From 1970 to 2014, state government spending rose from $4 billion to nearly $67 billion—the highest in state history. Adjusting for inflation, that’s an increase of $3,163 per resident.
This decades-long pattern has placed an undue burden on the backs of state taxpayers. Pennsylvania has the 10th highest state and local tax burden in the nation. Meanwhile, state and local government debt has grown to a combined $125 billion—nearly $10,000 per resident.
High spending, taxes, and debt hinders Pennsylvania families’ opportunities for prosperity. The commonwealth is near the bottom in most state rankings of economic climate and has lagged the rest of the nation in job and income growth for decades.
Unfortunately, the prospects for improvement are overshadowed by the challenges lawmakers face in balancing our state budget.
Recent budgets relied heavily on temporary federal stimulus dollars and one-time revenue sources, creating an imbalance between spending and revenue that has not yet been resolved. Spending on Public Welfare—the largest department in the commonwealth’s budget—continues to grow faster than taxpayers’ income. Debt payments and prison costs continue to eat a large share of the state budget.
The most pressing threat to our fiscal house is a looming public pension crisis. With $47 billion (and growing) in unfunded pension liabilities between the two statewide plans for public employees, state pension contributions will skyrocket by 143% in the next five years.
This report outlines reforms to help build a foundation for lasting prosperity. Our analysis focuses on three categories of reform.
First we address short-term fiscal reforms to deal with challenges facing our state budget. We also identify long-term reforms to bring spending in line with inflation while reducing the size of government and the burden on taxpayers. Finally, we discuss policy reforms aimed at economic growth.
These recommendations include:
–Cut corporate welfare spending—including Redevelopment Assistance Capital Spending, the Commonwealth Financing Authority, and the Horse Race Development Fund—and targeted tax incentives in favor of tax relief for all.
–Utilize part of the legislative reserve fund.
–Reduce reliance on driver charges and general tax revenue to fund mass transit, and shift to greater user fees.
–Allow school districts to use fund reserves to invest in pension funds and receive a credit for their future pension costs.
–Privatize and utilize competitively-bid management contracts for “yellow-pages” government, including state liquor stores, the Pennsylvania Lottery and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
–Enact comprehensive welfare reform to slow the rate of spending growth while also reducing poverty.
–Enact long-term care reform to encourage private long-term care insurance and reduce reliance on government programs.
–Increase school choice programs to provide families with greater educational opportunities at a lower cost per student.
–Limit future increases in government spending to inflation plus population growth.
–Lower the overall tax burden, rather than relying on economic development programs, to encourage economic growth.
–Enact a Right-to-Work law to make Pennsylvania more competitive with other states in attracting business investment.
Combined, these reforms detail a blueprint for a stable fiscal house that will provide opportunities for prosperity for all Pennsylvania families.
Prosperous Pennsylvania Blueprint has mostly great ideas but the Turnpike belongs to the people. Get rid of the toll booths.
The spending was done by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission between the passage of Act 44 in 2007 and April 6, 2010 when the plan to toll
Interstate 80 finally killed by the federal Department of Transportation.
Most of the money went to McCormick
Taylor, an engineering firm based in Harrisburg, which billed $22 million for engineering work, traffic studies, and environmental impact assessments.
The U.S. Department of Transportation, yesterday, kiboshed Gov. Rendell’s plan to turn I-80 into a toll road saying that the law only allows
tolls on an interstate highway to be used for maintenance of that highway.
Rendell said he wanted to use the money for SEPTA projects and maintenance of other roads although forgive me if I suspect that he saw it as a fungible stash to be used for pension fund bailouts, raises for state workers and rewarding connected types with jobs.
You think maybe they could have pointed out that travel time up north won’t be unnecessarily extended and the cost of delivery of things like food to supermarkets wouldn’t be artificially inflated.
Or you think that maybe they might have pointed out that some money for things it thinks are so wonderful could be found by simply ending prevailing wage requirements for municipal projects or the right to strike for all government workers like those at SEPTA.
The Big-Spenders-With-Our-Ransacked-Money (BSWORMs) who now run Pennsylvania are still scheming for toll booths on I-80.
Nathan Benefield of the Commonwealth Foundation has come up with a list of alternatives for finding the desperately needed dollars that the BSWORMs say must come from new government-caused traffic snarls.
Benefield’s suggestions are:
Repeal prevailing wage laws which mandate wages for government projects 40 percent higher, on average, than the private sector pays for the same work; and would free up hundred of millions, if not billions, for highway construction and repair.
Stop redirecting highway and bridge money to other purposes.
Enable public-private partnerships, especially for new construction like express lanes, high occupancy lanes, new highways, new bridges etc.
Eliminate the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) –rolling the Turnpike Commission into PennDOT, would eliminate an unnecessary bureaucracy and offer substantial saving in transportation spending.
Privatize rest stops.
Excellent ideas all; and I would also point out that forbidding all government workers from striking — which would include SEPTA employees and public school teachers — would free up a lot of state money for highway projects since the state would not have to subsidize public schools and transportation to the degree it now does.
I would also point out that making the Pennsylvania Turnpike a freeway and replacing the revenue by hiking the gasoline tax (or by spending less) would be a net tax cut since we would no longer have to pay the people to snarl the traffic.
Among the things the study notes are that tolling of I-80 would result in a large number of trucks diverting to roads like US 422 and 22, which are not designed for long-distance hauling.
You would think that with the global warming and such enlightened Democratic leaders would not be pushing for things that would create snarls and increase CO2 emissions. Why would they?? Oh that’s right, state jobs. Patronage will trump a crisis each and every time with Ed Rendell.
Toll I-80 X-Man Again Tries — Gov. Ed “X-Man” Rendell is bravely using his incompetence in state budgetary matters to revive an attempt to further snarl traffic on Pennsylvania’s interstate highways, namely making I-80 a toll road.
Smart idea. We can’t pay the state workers we have so let’s hire some more.
Toll roads are an extraordinarily inefficient means of raising revenue but their economic costs are better hidden than other taxes, and of course they give hacks of either party a chance to bestow jobs and have people kiss their rings.
With regard to the CO2-emitting traffic snarls, I guess some people who say global warming is a crisis don’t really believe it to be.