By VINCENT A. RONGIONE, Times Guest Columnist
Printed in the Delco Times, 11/12/13
Recently political dysfunction in Washington cost the American economy $24 billion and the American people countless jobs and significant, unnecessary economic worry. Extreme elements of the House of Representatives held the government — and indeed the entire country — hostage to serve their own unpopular ideology. Now here at home in Pennsylvania, we are falling victim to the same Washington-style broken politics and unkept promises that keep our economy stuck in neutral and our families struggling.
The Pennsylvania State Senate is made up of 27 Republicans and 23 Democrats. Nearly five months ago, that legislative body voted an overwhelmingly bipartisan 45-5 in favor of a transportation bill called Senate Bill 1. Gov. Tom Corbett has said that he would sign the bill into law as soon as the House of Representatives takes positive action.
For nearly five months, the state House has failed to act on this bill, in spite of the fact that Pennsylvania leads the country in percentage of structurally deficient bridges and, even more troublingly, over 23 percent of the bridges right here in Delaware County have been deemed “structurally deficient,” more than twice the national average.
The economic collapse of 2008 and recent political gridlock both painfully demonstrate that our economy cannot grow amidst uncertainty. Businesses cannot hire or expand when they cannot rely on our leaders to provide a steady environment. Without leadership and without the steady environment that leadership provides, our hard-working families struggle. And the only thing worse than uncertainty in the business environment is uncertainty at the kitchen table about making ends meet.
Right now, an average of more than 10,000 passengers every weekday rely on the Media-Elwyn train line to travel to work, to school, to the food store and to wherever their basic transportation needs take them. Right now, the state House of Representatives sits idle while these passengers, the businesses that employ them, and the businesses where they shop are forced to stare down the uncertainty of whether the line will remain open and what the increased costs will be if it doesn’t. Until our House of Representatives takes action on a new transportation bill, our economic future and the future of our state’s trains, roads, and bridges — basic infrastructure essential to our economic progress — will remain uncertain.
The state House has neither voted on the Senate Bill 1 nor passed an alternative transportation plan of its own. This inaction is endangering our citizens and hurting our economy. State Rep. Nicholas Micozzie, R-163 of Upper Darby, is now the chairman of the Transportation Committee in the state House. Despite some lawmakers saying that the bill would be dead if the transportation issue wasn’t resolved in October, last month, yet another legislative session ended without a vote on a transportation bill. Micozzie himself told the Delaware County Times that he hoped to have a bill out of committee by Monday, Oct. 21, so that it could be voted on Oct. 22. Needless to say, Micozzie failed to even move a bill out of his own committee, let alone to achieve a full vote of the House. Now, nearly six months after the state Senate passed the original transportation bill in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, is the time for the House to take action to secure our infrastructure and our local economy.
Here at home in Delaware County, needed repairs go unfunded, trains are delayed and cancelled, trucks are rerouted to avoid crumbling bridges, and taxpayers, and businesses and working families suffer the consequences. Everyday without action our infrastructure deteriorates further, jobs are lost and the repairs become more expensive for the people.
Dilapidated infrastructure undermines economic growth and puts the safety of our families at risk. Pennsylvania and Delaware County taxpayers have waited long enough for Rep. Micozzie and the state House to take action on this issue. Gov. Corbett and the state Senate have already demonstrated that freedom of movement and basic transportation funding are not partisan issues – they are fundamental rights and responsibilities of government. Structural deficiency and ideological extremism have crumbled the House of Representatives’ ability to govern effectively and now the voters, taxpayers and families of Pennsylvania must demand action before our infrastructure and our economy fall in on themselves.
Vincent A. Rongione is an attorney from Drexel Hill who currently works at Villanova University. He grew up in Havertown and is a former staff member of former U.S Rep. Joe Sestak, state Rep. Bryan Lentz, and former U.S. Rep. Chris Carney.