HARRISBURG, Pa., June 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Four in five Pennsylvania voters oppose the idea of diverting funds earmarked for transportation improvements for non-transportation purposes, according to a recent poll.
The poll, conducted by Terry Madonna Opinion Research and commissioned by Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, showed that 61 percent of Pennsylvania voters strongly oppose and 19 percent somewhat oppose using some of the money generated by increased fuel taxes and license and registration fees for non-transportation items in the state budget.
In 2013, Pennsylvania passed Act 89, which raised taxes and user fees to pay for transportation improvements. Those taxes and fees go directly into the Motor License Fund. Per the Pennsylvania Constitution, they may only be used for highway purposes.
One of those highway purposes is to support the State Police in patrolling the highways. However, the $739 million to be diverted from the Motor License Fund in the proposed 2015-16 budget is approaching nearly three-quarters of the State Police budget and appears to significantly exceed the cost of patrolling highways.
The amount proposed to be diverted in the next fiscal year is $63 million more than the current year. The $739 million figure equates to about 12 cents per gallon in the price of gasoline.
"Most people, including those of us in the highway construction industry, recognize the importance of funding the State Police, and supporting the patrolling of highways qualifies as a highway use," said Robert Latham, APC executive vice president. "The question is whether diverting funds beyond that for State Police is good public policy or even constitutional, particularly after we promoted Act 89 as a mechanism to improve our transportation system."
He noted that the proposed budget also diverts a smaller amount for the Department of Agriculture's weights and measures operation.
Latham acknowledged that there is no data to illustrate that too much is being diverted, or that the amount is appropriate. He called for the creation of a commission to study the issue and determine the appropriate level of resources that should be taken from the Motor License Fund, which should be used to guide a legislative solution.
He noted that previously, a larger proportion of the State Police budget came from the General Fund, but that began to change drastically when state revenue collections began to fall off.
Other poll questions revealed the following:
- 88 percent of Pennsylvania voters believe the state's roads, bridges and highways are in poor or only fair condition.
- 71 percent believe that spending state and local tax dollars on road improvements benefit their local communities.
- 85 percent believe that "bridge and highway construction projects create jobs and improve the local economy."
- 89 percent said they believed that bridge and highway projects make traveling safer and more convenient.
"It's reassuring to see that Pennsylvanians understand the many benefits of transportation improvements," Latham said. "These necessary projects will span the state and continue for years to come, thanks to Act 89."
The poll presents the findings of a survey of 798 Pennsylvania registered voters conducted during April, 2015. The survey was designed by Terry Madonna Opinion Research and the interviewing was conducted by First Contact Now in Rehoboth, Delaware. The sampling error for the total sample is plus or minus 3.3 percent. Telephone numbers for the survey were generated from state-wide voter registration lists. The final sample was weighted (gender, party and region) to correct for differential probabilities of selection and non-response using an iterative weighting procedure.
The poll was part of a statewide omnibus poll. For complete top-line results of the transportation questions, click here.
APC is a trade association consisting of more than 400 members that include contractors, consulting engineers, material suppliers, manufacturers, and others with an interest in Pennsylvania's road and bridge construction industry.
SOURCE Associated Pennsylvania Constructors