HARRISBURG – Today the House Appropriations Committee heard from the Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the Department of General Services (DGS) and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB). The PLCB was accompanied by the Bureau of Liquor Enforcement of the Pennsylvania State Police. Here are the key takeaways from the day:
Bridge tolling proposal sparked significant debate:
· PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian answered several questions related to the department’s proposal to toll nine bridges across the Commonwealth under the Commonwealth’s public-private partnership (P3) law. The total cost of replacing the nine bridges is estimated to be $2.2 billion. PennDOT could not provide an estimate for the total cost to drivers that would be generated through tolls over a 30-year period.
Public transit has been reliant on federal aid:
· Major transit authorities have received $1.4 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds over the past year while revenue generated from fares have fallen dramatically. Gramian testified that the federal funds are sufficient to help transit authorities through the current fiscal year and the next fiscal year. She is very concerned about the future financial viability of these transit authorities beginning in the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The public may soon return to the Capitol Complex:
· DGS Secretary Curtis Topper testified that an announcement will be coming in the next few days regarding the reopening of the Capitol Building to the public.
Wine sales in grocery stores surged last year:
· As a result of the closure of state stores during the spring of 2020, total retail wine sales through Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores declined by 15% in the 2019-20 fiscal year. Conversely, during the same period, wine sales to grocery and convenience stores grew by 118%.
Losing money to make money:
· Total sales through the PLCB dropped by over $110 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year. However, PLCB members testified that the board increased its net income in large part due to the closing of the boards’ costly retail sales structure.
Pennsylvania House of Representatives