(Editor's note: State Representative Jerry Knowles explains why he voted "no" on Senate Bill 1.)
By REP. JERRY KNOWLES
Pennsylvania's roads and bridges have been neglected for too long. I think we can all agree. But Pennsylvania taxpayers and working families have been neglected, and are having to pay more taxes to Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., for even longer.
Since my constituents elected me to represent them in the Legislature, I have sworn to protect taxpayers above all else.That's why I voted "no" in the House Transportation Committee on Senate Bill 1.This bill would have raised the gas tax on every driver, small business owner, and consumer in the Commonwealth. It would have also created or increased 19 other user fees or taxes.
Displaying leadership isn't pushing off the costs of government and forcing people to pay higher and higher taxes. Leadership is demonstrated by demanding government do what we're already paying them to do.After all, Pennsylvania taxpayers put more than $6.5 billion into the Department of Transportation each year to maintain our roads and keep our bridges safe.
As responsible legislators, we should be demanding transparency and accountability for every last tax dollar dedicated to our roads and bridges.That's what I'm working toward. I refuse to raise taxes and create and increase fees on my constituents in this economy when too many families are struggling to make ends meet and area seniors are pinching every penny to pay for their ever-increasing property taxes.
I introduced legislation that would take the revenue from privatizing our state liquor system and devote the money 100 percent to roads and bridges.We are getting closer and closer to privatization and I am still fighting to include my bill with that effort.While I don't claim that my bill is the "cure-all" solution, I do believe that it is a commonsense way to give us a start to fix more of our roads and bridges without costing drivers more at the pump.
A "yes" vote on Senate Bill 1 also means supporting mass transit in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with hundreds of millions more of our tax dollars, as well as funding for bike and walking paths and street-scape projects, and much more that taxpayers simply cannot afford.
My colleagues and I have heard from some of the special interest groups that would profit from increased gas taxes. As a legislator, I do not represent any special interest group. I was elected to represent all people of the 124th District, and I'm willing to hold myself accountable to voters and taxpayers every other year at the ballot box.
I have always been, and remain committed to fixing our roads and bridges, but not by drastically raising taxes and fees, and hurting working families, senior citizens, here at home and across Pennsylvania.