Transportation’s quick-fix remedy will add pothole

State Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford, has come up with a counterproposal in transportation funding to earlier plans offered by Gov. Tom Corbett and the state senate, both of which failed to garner sufficient support in the House.

Roae wants to gradually move state sales tax revenue from vehicle sales into the Motor License Fund, which is used for road and bridge repair.

He proposes transferring 10 percent in the 2014-15 fiscal year, then increasing the transfer amount by 10 percent annually until 100 percent of the sales taxes from vehicle sales are devoted to state roads and bridges in fiscal year 2023-24.

“This is a tax-free way to fix our roads and bridges without adding any additional burden to Pennsylvania families or businesses,” Roae told reporters. “My proposal would ensure that existing tax dollars paid by automobile drivers go to pay for the upkeep of our roads and bridges.”

But it’s also going to create a hole in the General Fund.

The state currently collects about $1.2 billion in sales taxes on vehicle sales – 0.4 percent of the overall $28.4 billion state budget – which goes into the General Fund. Assuming tax revenues don’t increase within the next five years to offset some or all of the transferred funding, this plan is going to make it tougher to balance the state budget.

Roae has an answer for that concern.

“If you asked most Pennsylvanians whether they’d prefer to pay more in taxes or force state government to trim 0.4 percent of its budget to pay for roads and bridges, I believe most people would think it is reasonable to expect Harrisburg to do more with less,” Roae said.

That may be the answer until lawmakers start trying to cut expenses for local school districts and social service programs.

Then the answer isn’t so easy.

Roae was one of the lawmakers who refused to support transportation funding plans offered earlier by Corbett and in a Senate bill, both of which depended on what would essentially be a 25-cents-a-gallon tax increase.

We commend Roae for trying to come up with an alternative, but he and his supporters need to do a little more work before they start moving money from the left pocket to the right pocket.

Otherwise, the transfer plan will require a tax increase to replace the General Fund’s lost revenue.