Senators Speak at Rally Opposing Bridge Tolling

HARRISBURG – Several Pennsylvania senators today joined members of the No P3 Bridge Tolls Coalition to voice opposition to the Wolf administration’s plan to toll interstate bridges in Pennsylvania, beginning with the following nine bridges:

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) plan proposes tolling to pay for bridge projects and has received an overwhelming amount of disapproval, including members of the General Assembly, local officials, businesses and Pennsylvania residents.

Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, spoke at the rally. “It is never acceptable for the hardworking people of Pennsylvania to pay a new tax, fee or toll when gas prices are skyrocketing,” said Langerholc. “The court’s temporary halt reflects the bipartisan arguments in my DRIVE SMART Act, including Senate Bill 382. I will continue to call on Gov. Wolf and PennDOT to compromise with sensible solutions.”

PennDOT’s bridge tolling initiative would cost the average commuter an additional $1,000 per year and was moved through the process without legislative input nor approval.

“The process for adding tolls to interstate bridges was mired in a lack of transparency, citizen input and legislative oversight. It has been a sloppy, closed process that sets the precedent of more tolls in the future,” said Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21). “The cost to motorists, communities and employers is too great, as is the power claimed by PennDOT to implement and raise tolls on its own. There are other funding options for bridge maintenance and repairs. This process should be halted and replaced with one that is open and rational.”  

Langerholc, Robinson and Hutchinson co-sponsored Senate Bill 382, which reforms the P3 statute and voids PennDOT’s plan. However, Gov. Wolf has stated that he will veto the bill.

“Our roads and bridges absolutely need to be repaired. Thankfully, we already have the funding for these projects through the federal infrastructure bill,” said Sen. Devlin Robinson (R-37). “Instead of soliciting hardworking Pennsylvanians, we must work together to allocate our available resources while being transparent, which is exactly what PennDOT failed to do.”

The Commonwealth Court sided with Cumberland County and several municipalities surrounding the I-83 candidate toll bridge that challenged the plan as unconstitutional and has temporarily halted PennDOT’s entire bridge tolling plan with a preliminary injunction.  The court also heard a different case from several municipalities in the southwest surrounding the I-79 candidate toll bridge.

VIDEO: Senators speak at rally opposing bridge tolling

CONTACT:

Nolan Ritchie (Langerholc)

Justin Leventry (Hutchinson)

Elizabeth Weitzel (Robinson)

 

Meeting to consider SB 321

Senate Finance Committee

May 24, 2022 | 12:30 p.m.

East Wing, Hearing Room 8E-A

Agenda

Meeting to consider SB 321

Meeting to consider SB 230, SB 622 and HB 2058

Senate Finance Committee

Wednesday, February 9, 2022 | Off the Floor

Senate Rules Room

Agenda

Meeting to consider SB 230, SB 622 and HB 2058

Schedule

Call to Order

Consideration of Legislation

SB 230 (Phillips-Hill) – Amends the definition of “income” in the Taxpayer Relief Act.

  • A03623 (Hutchinson)

SB 622 (Pittman) – Amends the definition of “enforcement officer” in the State Employees’ Retirement Code.

HB 2058 (Mako) – Amends the Local Tax Enabling Act of 1965 to align the filing deadlines for Earned Income Tax and Net Profits Tax returns with the deadline to file Personal Income Tax returns.

Recess subject to the call of the Chair

 

Hutchinson: Wolf Budget Abandons All Fiscal Discipline

Harrisburg — Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21) released the following statement in reaction to today’s budget address by Gov. Tom Wolf:

“Unfortunately, Governor Wolf’s proposal abandons any notion of smart fiscal stewardship.  It overestimates revenues while underestimating expenditures, and it spends one-time Federal funds to pay for ongoing programs.  We can’t engage in reckless spending like the Federal government.  The make-believe numbers presented today are unreasonable and should not be relied upon by school districts or other programs that receive state government dollars.  We have to go back to the drawing board during the Budget process and develop a more sustainable plan.”

CONTACT: Justin Leventry jleventry@pasen.gov

Senate Approves Hutchinson Bill to Improve National Guard Health Care

Harrisburg — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21) to increase the number of health care providers in the Pennsylvania National Guard was approved today by the Senate.

The legislation improves the Medical Officer or Health Officer Incentive Program, which was created in 2014 through legislation Sen. Hutchinson authored (Act 78) to provide an education stipend to those who qualified through their time in the armed services.

“This incentive program began to provide a solution for what the Pennsylvania National Guard saw as a lack of health care providers within its ranks,” Hutchinson said. “Even though the program was successful in attracting providers into Guard service, some health professionals, such as dentists and physician assistants, were inadvertently left out of the program.”

Senate Bill 927 would establish a broader definition of health professional to capture those left out of the original program. It would also create education stipend tiers based on the participant’s education level, so that physicians and physician assistants would get a higher reimbursement to help pay down their higher tuition debt.

The Medical and Health Officer Incentive program significantly increased our ability to recruit and retain military medical professionals in the Pennsylvania National Guard. Since the program was established in 2014, over 100 health care providers have joined the Guard with 80% participating in the program,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “This incentive program is critical to support the medical readiness of our Guard members and their ability to provide medical support to our communities.”

“Act 78 was a resounding success, bringing numerous health professionals into the Guard to fill a crucial need,” Hutchinson said. “This legislation will strengthen the program and allow for even more health professionals to take advantage of this opportunity.”

The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT: Justin Leventry jleventry@pasen.gov

Addressing the Closed, Sloppy Process Behind the Wolf Administration’s Bridge Tolling Scheme

I took to the floor of the Senate this week to speak out against the new tax that the Wolf Administration is preparing to impose on Pennsylvania motorists: the requirement that drivers pay tolls to cross nine interstate bridges across the commonwealth, including the Canoe Creek Bridges on Interstate 80 in our region.

It’s a tax imposed without legislative approval and a tax that breaks the decades-old implicit promise in the very name of our “freeway” system.

I will have more to say on the Senate floor about this topic. On this occasion, I focused on the flawed process that brought about the bridge tolling scheme. It was mired in a lack of transparency, lack of citizen input and lack of legislative oversight – a sloppy, closed process that threatens to set the precedent of more and more tolls in the future.

In addition to my comments above, you can find more on the tolling plan here.

Click here to join the list to stop the tolling of the Canoe Creek Bridges on Interstate 80.

Hutchinson Joins Renewed Effort to Halt Closure of Polk State Center with Senate Passage of Moratorium

Sen. Scott Hutchinson urges the Senate to approve a five-year moratorium on the closing of Polk State Center.

Harrisburg — The struggle to halt the closure of the Polk State Center continued today with Senate passage of legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21) which would keep it open for a minimum of five years.  

Senate Bill 924 would also create the Task Force on the Closure of State Facilities to analyze and manage the shuttering of any state center, including Polk and the White Haven State Center in Luzerne County. 

Polk has been home for people with intellectual disabilities for more than a century, and today its residents are part of the local community and lead fulfilling lives there, Hutchinson said. 

“Since the announcement of this closure, we have had a worldwide pandemic. What that has meant is there has been zero to little thought about where these residents will go,” Hutchinson said. “We have families deathly afraid about the future living arrangements for their very fragile family members.” 

A similar measure was introduced in the previous legislative session. It was approved by the General Assembly but vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf.  

“I hope the House of Representatives approves this bill and again sends it to the governor, and I pray he will give families and residents more time to plan for this life-changing action his administration is taking,” Hutchinson said.  

CONTACT: Justin Leventry jleventry@pasen.gov