Friday, October 8, 2010

PA gubernatorial candidates on transportation

In every election, savvy voters want to know what candidates have to say about issues of importance to them. In Pennsylvania, truckers know where the two men who are vying to become governor stand on transportation issues.

A thorough comparison between the candidates and their thoughts on how to go about achieving a comprehensive way to meet transportation funding needs has been put together by The Patriot-News. Included below is what Republican candidate Tom Corbett and Democratic nominee Dan Onorato had to say about transportation issues:

On increasing the fuel tax:

Corbett says he is opposed to a fuel tax hike. In hopes of convincing voters that they can believe him, he has signed a pledge stating he would not raise taxes or create any new ones. Instead, Corbett would rather replace the fuel tax sometime in the future with another revenue stream as vehicles become more fuel efficient.

Onorato agrees that they shouldn’t pursue a fuel tax increase. He said the state already has one of the highest tax rates at the pump.

On raising motor vehicle fees:

Corbett says he has “no intention” of boosting fees, such as vehicle registration and drivers’ license fees. However, he pointed out they are not prohibited under the no-tax pledge he signed.

Onorato says he also wants nothing to do with higher motor vehicle fees. Instead, he says the state should look for efficiencies and tighten its belt before talking about increasing fees.

It is good to hear talk about resisting the urge to reach deeper into the pockets of taxpayers with higher taxes or fees. The state should first take steps to ensure the revenue already coming in is used for its intended purpose. Hopefully, the new administration will do a much better job of using resources they already have than the Rendell administration has done.

On leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike or privatizing roads:

Corbett says he would consider selling public assets, such as the turnpike.

Onorato says he would promote partnerships with private groups that help the state complete projects that would otherwise be unfeasible. Unlike his opponent, he is opposed to selling assets such as the turnpike.

On tolling more roads:

Corbett says he would call on PennDOT and the Turnpike Commission to study the potential for new projects that expand roadway capacity as part of a statewide strategy for funding. Those projects could include establishing partnerships with local governments and private companies and creating high-occupancy vehicle lanes that charge drivers tolls.

Onorato says that user fees, such as tolls, could be considered for road construction that might not otherwise be financially viable but only after improving efficiencies with current taxpayer dollars.

It is disappointing to hear that Corbett appears to be cut from a similar cloth as Rendell – as far as leasing, or essentially selling, the turnpike. I cannot imagine there are too many people who will be casting ballots next month in Pennsylvania who support the pawnshop mentality of making existing infrastructure available to the highest bidder.

On State Police funding:

Corbett says he might consider moving the trooper funding from the state’s motor license fund to the general fund.

Onorato says the State Police should be paid for out of the state’s general fund.

It is encouraging to see that both candidates are open to weaning the State Police off the motor license fund.

When all the campaigning is done and voters make their decision on Nov. 2, hopefully whoever emerges the victor in the race for governor will take more cautious steps to address infrastructure needs than what has been seen in the past.

CARB back, back, backing it up

The point of this blog entry is mainly to point you to a very interesting article in today’s edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The article explains that CARB has admitted miscalculating the effects of diesel particulate matter by 340 percent when providing science to back its off-road diesel regulation, which regulates construction equipment.

As Land Line reported this week, science behind CARB’s most expensive trucking rules to date has been under fire for more than a year.

Stay tuned for more news on this issue, particularly as California elections approach early next month.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Part 5: Know your governors

Election Day is less than one month away. And voters around the country have likely already noticed the increased frequency of ads touting candidates or issues, as well as ads berating those same candidates and issues.

With all of the messages that voters must sift through in the lead-up to Nov. 2, it is worthwhile to revisit some noteworthy actions taken by governors who are vying for re-election.

You can read recaps of notable actions from governors in several of these states on the Land Line November Elections site. The recap below focuses on Gov. Ted Strickland in Ohio.

One of the more notable actions taken in recent years by a governor was in Ohio. During the 2009 session, Gov. Strickland signed a two-year transportation budget, which included a provision to do away with split speed limits on mostly rural and suburban interstates.

Truckers, who had been pushing for the change for years, cheered the governor’s decision. A story in Land Line at the time described the breakthrough in policy in Ohio as a “sweet triumph for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and its members.”

“It feels great to add Ohio to the list of states that have eliminated split speeds, thanks to a long campaign by OOIDA to inform and reform bad safety policy,” said Todd Spencer, executive vice president of OOIDA. “The only speed limit policy that makes sense is to have all vehicles traveling at the same speed. It is a welcome change in Ohio that is long overdue.”

While the law eliminated the slower speed for trucks on interstates, speed limits on U.S. routes, state routes and other multi-lane divided highways were unaffected.

OOIDA and Ohio truckers continue to tout to lawmakers the advantages of uniform speeds on all roadways in the Buckeye State.

Another notable action taken by Strickland was his decision to remove from the two-year budget a provision to prohibit overweight and overdimension permit fee increases.

Strickland said in a veto statement, “this provision deprives the Department of revenues that are necessary to maintain operations and preserve the Ohio transportation system.”

A year earlier, in 2008, Strickland signed a bill into law that allowed trucks traveling state or local highways to haul three steel coils at 120,000 pounds. Previously, Ohio law limited those loads to 92,000 pounds. However, trucks transporting one or two steel coils under permit can now weigh up to 120,000 pounds.

In the countdown to Election Day, be on the lookout for more blogs about governors on fall ballots and their actions on truck-related issues.