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Pennsylvania Governor Proposes Tolling, Taxing and Ticketing to Balance Budget
Pennsylvania governor sees new taxes, tolls, fees and cameras as the key to shoring up the state budget.

Gov. Ed Rendell, 7/21
Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is struggling in his latest budget with the desire to spend more money while lacking tax revenue due to the economic recession. Nonetheless, the $28 billion budget for 2011 expends $200 million more than the previous year. Rendell yesterday testified before the state Senate Transportation Committee about how he intended to hit up motorists to make up much of that amount.

"If you did the increase in fees for inflation and the four cents at the pump -- again, I think my idea is the best idea -- but if you did that, you've got almost $100 million more," Rendell testified. "If you did the InsureNet -- that's the plan with the cameras -- the state would generate $75 million more."

Rendell specifically asked committee members to index various registration and driving fees to inflation so that they would automatically increase every year without a vote. He also suggested the gas tax should rise by at least four cents, although he preferred to index the gas tax to inflation as well.

Lobbyist Wayne Pettigrew had testified on March 2 before the state House Transportation Committee about the InsureNet made system which would generate automated citations for motorists who may have missed an auto insurance premium by as little as a few hours.

"I'll use myself as an example," Pettigrew explained. "Let's say my premium is due March 1st, today is March 2nd, I haven't paid my premium. If I'm driving by a site as of 2:00 last night, that site is now going to know through the NLETS database that my insurance is unpaid today. So therefore, today, if I'm driving past that site, it's going to show me as an uninsured vehicle... Most states there is no grace period for vehicle liability on insurance."

The for-profit company would set up cameras across the state to monitor and track all passing motorists, automatically generating tickets for anyone whose information does not appear in the insurance database. The state would pay nothing.

"We provide all the equipment, all the direct costs, the whole thing," Pettigrew said.

Rendell promoted a similar no-cost program to expand red light cameras throughout the state. Currently, automated ticketing machines are only legal in Philadelphia. The state Senate on July 3 voted 49-1 to allow cameras in second and third-class cities, generating an estimated $25 million in net profit for the state.

Rendell was upset that his plan to toll Interstate 80 was blocked, but he insisted tolling as many roads as possible through "public private partnerships" was essential to his overall plan. The governor was optimistic that this suite of taxes, fees and tolls could be enacted.

"Although I do think it's not an easy political lift, I don't think it's quite as hard as everyone makes it out to be," Rendell said.

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