From the "it was bound to happen sooner or later" files...
State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo (D-1st/Philadelphia) announced a plan that would increase the state's portion of the Realty Transfer Tax by .5 percent, a move that he claims would raise $200 million for SEPTA and other transit systems across the Commonwealth.
The bill comes closer to fixing chronically inadequate state transit funding than a $110 million motor vehicle fee packaged proposed by Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Phila.) and backed by Gov. Rendell.
But Republicans who control the state House and Senate greeted Fumo's proposal by repeating demands that a statewide fix for transit should also address insufficient state road and bridge aid. The legislature has historically raised gasoline taxes to help the road network in conjunction with new fees aimed at aiding transit agencies.
"We need to look at the overall transportation problem, including roads and bridges," said Sen. Robert Thompson (R-19th/Chester).
Thompson added that he intends to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Fumo bill. The Fumo plan "fixes the transit side," Thompson said. "It is a good idea."
Fine, Senator. Now fix the highway problem. I'm sure your consituents who live in the 19th and have to deal with PA 41 on a daily or semi-regular basis would love to know what youse guys in Harrisburg plan on doing to make sure that dangerous highways such as PA 41 and US 322 in Delaware County (hello, Sen. Pileggi) are fixed sooner rather than later...
Kate Philips, a spokeswoman for Rendell, said the governor's office would review the tax proposal. The governor, however, has ruled out a gasoline tax increase for roads and bridges.
"The door is slammed shut," on a gasoline tax increase, Philips said. "Gas prices are just too volatile right now. The governor wants to keep the focus on transit because that is the crisis we are facing."
Well, in about 6 weeks, that door is going to slam shut right on Rendell's foot if SEPTA follows through with its threats to cut service and increase fares...
Who's giving Rendell advice on this issue, Joe Banner? (Iggles fans know all too well how the Iggles' last two appearances in the NFC title game went, and we all know that Rendell is too busy with his duties at Comcast SportsNet to even deal with anything related to state government issues...)
The statewide real estate transfer tax is 1 percent, matched by an additional tax levy of 1 percent or more by many local municipalities across the state, Fumo spokesman Gary Tuma said. The total real estate transfer tax in Philadelphia is 4 percent, and 3 percent in Pittsburgh.
As a statewide tax to save transit, the real estate transfer tax makes sense because more income would be generated from urban areas where more properties are sold each year, Fumo said.
"It increases with inflation because it grows as the value of real estate grows," he said in a press release yesterday. "We have an opportunity to solve this problem for many years to come."
Now, whether or not Fumo pushes for something in return from SEPTA (read: patonage jobs) remains to be seen. We should point out that one of Fumo's proteges is SEPTA Board member Chris (son of Councilman Frank) DiCicco, who had worked as an aide to Fumo.