Gov. Wolf seeks to phase-out state’s gas tax

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that his administration is proposing a phasing out of Pennsylvania’s gasoline tax.

To make this possible and to further address the state’s transportation funding needs, the governor has also signed an Executive Order establishing the Transportation Revenue Options Commission, which will develop comprehensive funding recommendations for Pennsylvania’s large and aging infrastructure.

The commission will be comprised of politicians, transportation industry representatives, transportation planners, government officials and more. The commission will have its first meeting by March 25 and a report of commission activities and funding options will be submitted to the governor before Aug. 1, according to a news release.

“Our economy, our communities, and our future rely on a strong transportation system that supports our safety and growth. We have more than $9 billion in annual unmet needs across our state-maintained transportation system alone. At the same time, Pennsylvania is relying too much on outdated, unreliable funding methods, and the federal government hasn’t taken meaningful action in decades,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement. “Phasing out the burdensome gas tax, coupled with seeking long-term reliable funding solutions that will keep pace with our infrastructure needs, deserves a close examination. Forming this bipartisan commission will bring multiple, bipartisan voices to the table to ensure that we can examine reliable, sustainable revenue solutions to address both near-term and long-term funding needs.”

Pennsylvania has one of the largest state-owned transportation networks in the country, with nearly 40,000 miles of roads and over 25,400 bridges under its direct purview. PennDOT also oversees aviation, rail freight, public transportation, ports, pedestrian and bicycle programs, the release states.

PennDOT has said its current highway and bridge budget for construction and maintenance is about $6.9 billion per year, less than half of the $15 billion that is needed to keep Pennsylvania’s highways and bridges in good condition and ease major traffic bottlenecks, according to the Associated Press.

In 2019, the Transportation Advisory Committee identified major risks to transportation funding such as reduced fuel revenues, unpredictable federal funding, and legislative changes to reduce commitments. PennDOT’s latest assessment places the annual gap of its needs in all modes and facilities at $9.3 billion, growing to an annual $14.5 billion gap by 2030. Further, as more fuel-efficient cars and technologies are created, reliance on the gas tax for state revenue is less and less dependable. Any phase out of the gas tax will need to be coupled with new or replacement revenue, according to the release.