For us to be successful in making changes, we all must contact our representatives and express our need for change! Below are direct links in which you can contact state and local reps.
You can also click the “ASK” link at the top of the page to contact me or submit questions.
Seemingly there is a lot of abuse to entitlement programs and handouts in Pennsylvania. Everyone recognizes that people need access to quality medical care and unemployment benefits when a tragedy like losing your job strikes. But who is keeping tabs on these benefits and are they going to people who actually qualify for them is something I’m sure everyone would like to know.
Our tax dollars pay for these benefits and service and unfortunately these programs, while full of good intention, are commonly abused and go unchecked. We need to pressure our state representatives and congressmen to impose penalties on individuals and those who allow these oversights to happen. A recently elected State representative, Senator Pat Toomey, who may have several different political views than I, has just been charged with executing entitlement reform in the United States Senate. He states there is a need to address the real problem, to tackle longtime lingering problems and not to just work on bits and pieces here and there. If we can get to the heart of the issue, abuse and over-use of entitlement programs, we can potentially save 1.5 trillion dollars over the next ten years.
This is a prime example of where we can gain back some money that is desperately needed for state projects like infrastructure. The federal government readily makes grants available to states for important infrastructure and by saving such a large sum of money over the next decade, we can really jumpstart progress. Many will say this is a witch-hunt or that it is a terrible thing to do, but it is your money that is being misused. Many times it is not the fault of an individual and they have done nothing wrong, and in instances like these there is no one to blame but the State. But many times, unfortunately, people will do whatever they can to scam the system and gain from it. This is something we all want to stop and if successful can be greatly beneficial to everyone.
For years Pennsylvania has attempted, and failed to, toll one of the most heavily traveled interstates in the state: Interstate 80. The road sees very heavy truck traffic and is a major artery for commuters traveling to work and school each day. The plan was rejected multiple times by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) due to the fact that any monies collected via a toll must be used explicitly to fund improvements on that particular road. The state had planned to use the tolls collected to close a massive $472 million gap in the transportation and infrastructure budget for fiscal year 2010-2011. Why is the State wasting time on a failed fantasy? The FHA is not going to allow the state to toll this road, period. The Standard Speaker makes a few great points in ideas to generate additional revenue that is fair to all residents: Turn the turnpike over to a private corporation (that’s a topic for another post,) adopt a modest gasoline tax increase, cut free rides for seniors and establish discounted rates, and the best of all, tax natural gas companies that are raking in BILLIONS of dollars while paying NO TAXES. They parade commercials on TV daily stating how they are committed to creating thousands of jobs but fail to deliver, and the new Governor, Tom Corbett believes they should pay no taxes. Maybe we should prompt the Governor to release the figures on how much the natural gas industry contributed to his election campaign?
Recently, a well respected civil engineering firm, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its 2010 findings for the condition of various aspects of vital infrastructure in PA. As history has shown, the results are very poor, and help underscore the dire need for improvement to roads, bridges, and even drinking water quality in the State. On a rating scale of a possible A to F, PA’s overall bridge rating stands at a C, with 27% of bridges being described as structurally deficient and 17% functionally obsolete, i.e. practically out of service. Roads fared even worse than bridges, receiving an embarrassing D-, just a step away from the lowest possible grade of F. They detail how 38% of Pennsylvania’s roads fall into the category of just “fair to poor” and with the demand on our highways expected to increase in the near future, doing nothing is not an option.
Not too long ago, a private firm from Spain operating under Pennsylvania Turnpike Partners, had offered to lease the PA Turnpike for $12.8 billion for a term of 75 years. The State could have used that $12.8 billion to fund new construction and improve our interstates and bridges. But, due to politics and back-room deals, the Pennsylvania Legislature fought very hard to have the deal stopped. Then-Governor Ed Rendell was a major supporter of the deal and many rallied behind him. Politicians today will continue to fight against future deals that come up for the opportunity to once again lease the Turnpike to an outside firm. Their arguments are tiring and have no merit. With the previous deal that was rejected with Pennsylvania Turnpike Partners, politicians had argued that the jobs of existing workers at the Turnpike Commission would be lost and we could not afford this. Surely this would be a concern for many because at the time this was being negotiated, our economy was on the downturn, and many were scared of losing their jobs, even as they may be today. The argument does not hold enough merit to be a serious one, though. The firm had stated they would honor all contracts that were already standing prior to the deal closure. Additionally, they stated they would hire all Turnpike Commission employees in new positions with equal pay to their current area of work. The next time an opportunity presents itself for the Turnpike to be leased or sold, the State, and politicians mostly, needs to think about the future and how we can go about generating the necessary capital to get things done. As with many problems we face every day, the people of our good community are ignored for the hope that an elected official can line his or her pocketbook for their next campaign.
PA’s budget reveals a sharp decline in projected spending on Highways and Bridges starting with the 2013 budget. Will we see a marked decline in the already seemingly poor conditions of Pennsylvania’s roads? Come 2013, things may only get worse.
Reviewing the 2011 budget for PA shows a marked decrease in the condition of roads for the years to come. Why is the state knowingly allowing these roads to deteriorate in such a manner as this?
During a December 2009 interview with then Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, The Infrastructurist.com’s Melissa Lafsky prompted Rendell on a series of questions how a National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) would work. This bank would be used by states and other municipalities seeking funding for infrastructure projects. It would be a public-private partnership group using a small amount of federal money and also the money of private investors. Rendell said he believed the NIB could be a subset of the current US Treasury so that all agencies such as those governing schools, waste water, and levies could all take advantage of the ability to borrow, not just agencies such as the Federal Highway Administration and states’ Departments of Transportation. He also said he wanted to see safeguards and regulation overseeing the NIB to make sure it does not suffer the fates of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Additionally, the NIB would not be the go-to for all borrowing in infrastructure projects, rather it would be an attractive option for infrastructure projects, and would be an equal opportunity lender so that smaller states would not be overshadowed by larger states and end up receiving fewer loans or grants compared to states with higher populations or pull in Congress.
According to TRIP, The Road Information Program, every dollar spent on infrastructure spending gives back in big ways. One of the most surprising figures shows promising potential: According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), on average, for every billion dollars that is spent on road and bridge projects 47,500 jobs are created annually.
Putting that into perspective, trillions of dollars are spent nationwide each year on improvement projects, which means potentially millions of jobs are created while valuable tax-payer dollars are used for much-needed improvements to aging U.S. infrastructure.
Other surprising figures shed more light on the great benefits behind engineering projects:
A USDOT study finds that $5.40 in economic benefits such as fewer detours and decreased vehicle operating costs is achieved for each dollar spent on highway improvements. That translates to a 500% return on every dollar spent.
Leaving roads in poor condition costs YOU real money. Motorists driving on roads that are in desperate need of repair costs PA commuters $3.1 billion yearly, which translates to $363 in vehicle repairs out of your pocket.
Car crashes, which are many times caused by poor road conditions, cost PA $8.2 billion annually, encompassing the expenses of medical expenses, travel delays, insurance, legal, workplace, and lost productivity costs. Broken down, this costs each resident $655 yearly.
Using our tax dollars responsibly and being proactive by fixing our infrastructure problems before they get out of control stretched our dollars ten-fold and brings hundreds of thousands of jobs to our State and Nation. If we can make our lawmakers see this, especially in this tough economic time, we can all spend less on vehicle repairs and invest into our economy and restore our great nation.