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Monday, August 20, 2007

Real Consideration of Turnpike Lease?

Pete DeCoursey at Capitolwire is reporting that not only is Governor Rendell continuing to press for a Turnpike Lease, but that he has several supporters, including Sen. Jake Corman.

Third, he [Rendell] has maybe 40 House votes and six to 10 Senate votes for a bill that won’t raise tolls on I-80.

That “I-80 caucus” can’t pass anything, but members like Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, will help Rendell get a hearing if he gets a big enough bid.

And as Corman notes, the chief objection to the turnpike lease was “that tolls would go up on the turnpike. The new law hikes them 25 percent soon, and then 3 percent a year whenever they want to raise them again. So that will put the leasing bids in a new light. I think we need to see what kind of good bids we get.”

Rendell says he will share the highest responsible bid with the Legislature by late November.
Does he really think he can get 102 House votes and 26 Senate votes for a leasing plan?

Rendell said: “I think the votes would depend, Pete, almost in direct correlation to what the differential is” between the new law and the highest responsible bid.

From the Q & A

Q: Sen. [Jake] Corman said he is going to reintroduce legislation to reconsider leasing the turnpike.

Rendell: As I said, what I am going to do – and I’m not doing this out of spite or anger – … leasing the turnpike with state control over when tolls can be raised and state control over maintenance is always the better solution. I agreed to toll I-80 and I agreed to implementing legislation for local taxes only because I promised the Legislature if they came out with funding that reached the minimal level of $1 billion, I would sign any proposal that did that in a legal and lawful way. But leasing the turnpike is always, in my judgment, the better solution. You wouldn’t have to toll a road that wasn’t previously tolled; you wouldn’t have to enact local taxes. So what I am going to do now is we’re going to go down the process of seeking bids, and if we get a bid that’s significant enough, that on a yearly basis raises significantly more money than the current-passed project, which will raise about a billion dollars, so over the course of 10 years, we’ll spend about $1 billion additional on our transportation needs. Let’s say hypothetically a turnpike lease comes in at a billion and a half a year, well, given what happened in Minnesota, given that we have the largest number of structurally-deficient bridges anywhere in the nation, if someone’s offering us a half billion dollars a year more, of which $375 million would go to bridge and road reconstruction and maintenance, we have to consider that. We have to put aside turf wars or whatever. To get a half a billion dollars a year, in addition to the billion we’ve already gotten, that’s so attractive in meeting our infrastructure needs, that I think we have to take a look at that. I will bring that to the Legislature. Let’s assume the highest bid is $1.1 billion a year, only an additional $100 million a year, I won’t bring that to the Legislature.

Read the Commonwealth Foundation's comparison of the costs and benefits Act 44 (tolling I-80 and raising Turnpike tolls, along with billions in new debt) to a Turnpike lease.

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