SEPTA Board Member and State Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-12/Montgomery & Bucks) introduced legislation - Senate Bill 1162 - to offer a more stable source of dedicated funding to transit agencies across Pennsylvania, including SEPTA. Similar legislation will be introduced by State Representative John J. Taylor (R-177/Philadelphia).
“Efficient and effective public transportation is critically important to the economic prosperity of all Pennsylvanians,” said Senator Greenleaf, a member of the SEPTA Board representing Bucks and Montgomery Counties.
“SEPTA and every transit agency across Pennsylvania are facing dire consequences without stable state funding. I’m confidant this legislation will provide that stability,” said Representative Taylor.
The legislation being introduced in the State House and Senate would lift a $75-million cap and dedicate an additional 3.2184% of the existing sales tax to transit, generating approximately $282 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2004. SEPTA’s share would exceed $174 million. The sales tax was selected because it has a history of stability and growth.
“This legislation would provide the financial stability SEPTA absolutely requires to operate a transit system our customers expect and deserve,” said SEPTA Board Chairman, Pasquale T. Deon, Sr.
Also announced at the Philadelphia news conference, Paul Levy, Executive Director of Philadelphia Center City District/Central Philadelphia Development Corporation, has agreed to lead the saveTransit Coalition.
saveTransit Coalition was formed earlier this year to coordinate a wide variety of public transportation interests seeking a long term funding solution for public transit in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania.
“Paul has been an ardent supporter of public transportation and brings to the saveTransit Coalition a sophisticated knowledge of the critical role SEPTA plays in the economy of the city, the region, and the state.” said SEPTA General Manager Faye Moore. “Paul is widely respected among business, political and civic leaders for his practical approach to solving fundamental issues in the region,” she said.
"Through the saveTransit Coalition we have an opportunity to stress just how important transit is to Philadelphia and this region," Levy said. "I have agreed to serve as the leader of the coalition because transit moves this region and without it our roads would be more congested, it would be harder for our stores to attract customers as well as prospective employees, and our region would not be as attractive to the types of businesses that we are trying to bring in and hold onto."
The saveTransit Coalition was created to call upon Pennsylvania State Government to enact legislation to provide dedicated and predictable funding for SEPTA and public transit across the Commonwealth. Because of funding shortfalls in the state budget in six of the past nine years SEPTA and transit agencies across the state are facing multi-million dollar budget deficits. SEPTA has announced that it will have an FY 05 Operating Budget deficit of $70 million without additional state funding. SEPTA Press Release
From today's Daily News:
The bill, based on the legislative proposal submitted by the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association, would generate roughly $282 million in additional transit funding statewide in 2004-2005. SEPTA would be in line to receive an additonal $174 million.
The cash-strapped agency faces a $70 million deficit in its operating budget for fiscal year 2005, which begins July 1. Pittsburgh's transit system is facing a $30 million shortfall. The combined deficit of the smaller systems is estmated between $5 and $10 million.
Taylor and Greenleaf made their case yesterday during a press conference at SEPTA headquarters in Center City sponsored by the SaveTransit Coalition - a group of state legislators, local leaders and transit officials.
The officials blamed the current fiscal crisis on stagnant support from Harrisburg - no increase in state subsidies for public transit in six of the last nine years.
SaveTransit director Paul Levy noted that at 13.75 percent, Pennsylvania lags well behind other states in the percentage of funding it provides to its mass transit systems relative to their operating budgets.
He said roughly 30 percent of New York City's transit system is subsidized by the state. San Francisco's BART system receives 48 percent of its funding from California, while Boston receives 49 percent of its operating funds from Massachusetts.
Roughly 18 percent of all workers in the region rely on SEPTA, including 70 percent of all employees who work in Center City, according to Levy, who is also the executive director of the Center City District.
"It is really time we appropriately value this critical asset of ours," he said...
"SEPTA will not be the same one year from now if we do not put this together," warned SEPTA board chairman Pasquale "Pat" Deon.
"The critical time is now. We've made all the cuts we can make."
Greenleaf, who is also a SEPTA board member, said he has 22 sponsors lined up in the Senate from both parties. He hopes to see the bill passed as an amendment to the roughly $22 billion state budget, which must be passed before legislators go on summer recess at the end of the month. Daily News
A full analysis of this bill will come within the next couple of days...