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Boscola Bulletin

Joint State Legislative Hearing Focuses on Gov. Wolf’s Restore PA Plan

Senator Boscola Remarks on Policy Hearing Discussing Governor’s Restore PA Plan
Senator Boscola Remarks on Policy Hearing
Discussing Governor’s Restore PA Plan

As Chair of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, I organized a joint Senate-House hearing on Gov. Tom Wolf’s “Restore PA” proposal that would place a severance tax on gas drillers to generate $4.5 billion over the next four years for statewide economic development, infrastructure and technology enhancement projects.

The Governor’s plan has focused attention on critical infrastructure deficiencies facing our state and a way to pay for it.  The Governor’s plan seeks to invest $4.5 billion over the next four years to remove lead from aging pipes and buildings, combat blight, prevent flash flooding, expand high-speed internet access to rural areas, stoke business development, invest in green infrastructure and fund transportation projects.

Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), who chairs the House Democratic Policy Committee, added, “Pennsylvania is the only major gas producing state with no severance tax. With so many critical infrastructure needs throughout Pennsylvania, I believe this is a reasonable and necessary approach to generating the resources needed for such a program.”

Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis M. Davin testified, “Our role in state government is to cultivate vibrant communities and foster equal opportunity for every Pennsylvanian, regardless of their ZIP code. With the problem building over the last few decades, we need a bold plan to make our Commonwealth stronger for the coming generations.”

Retore PennsylvaniaThe Restore Pennsylvania legislation (House Bill 1585) was introduced last Friday by Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) and Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery). Senators John Yudichak (D-Luzerne/Carbon) and Tom Killion (R-Chester/Delaware) sponsored similar legislation (Senate Bill 725) in the Senate.

“We believe the residents of Pennsylvania deserve to live without fear that their children will ingest toxic chemicals, which have been found in too many communities”, said Sam Robinson, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf. “We believe that all Pennsylvanians deserve to live in neighborhoods that are vibrant, healthy and free of blight, brownfields and decay; and to have access to well-maintained public facilities and recreational amenities. They deserve to live without fear of losing their homes to flooding.”

In advocating a new severance tax, Davin pointed out that Texas produces only 21 percent more gas than Pennsylvania yet collects 700 percent more in tax revenue. Davin added that the state’s impact fee, which is based on the number of wells rather than the volume of gas produced, has not generated the anticipated tax revenue. He added that gas companies do not pay property taxes and “very little” in state taxes.

Whether it is through a severance tax or some other funding source, we cannot continue to ignore needed investment in our infrastructure.

State Senate Hearing in Philly on Uber and Lyft

Senator Lisa BoscolaAt the request of state Senator Anthony Hardy Williams (D- Philadelphia), the Senate Democratic Policy Committee held a hearing last week on ways to improve the accessibility, safety and reliability and working conditions for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft.

Accessible transportation within Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania is a crucial part of our state’s economy & ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are becoming more widely used, so we need to make sure that both the drivers and passengers of these services are safe and fairly compensated for their work.

In a Pew Research Survey conducted in 2018, 36 percent of Americans said they had used ride hailing services – more than double the 15 percent in 2015. 

A study by JP Morgan study also revealed that monthly earnings for drivers of Uber and Lyft have dropped 53 percent from 2013 to 2017. The average driver who made $1,496 driving for a ride-share company in 2013 only makes $783 in 2017.

Members of the Pennsylvania Drivers Union and TNC drivers who testified at the hearing claim that it is the policies of TNCs that is causing the decrease in wages for drivers.

“I feel frustrated, manipulated and taken advantage of by Uber’s company culture, their misclassification of my work status and their purposely confusing and constant changes to my earnings, policies and procedures,” said Siti Crook of Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

Policy Hearing on Ride ShareVice Chairman of the Pennsylvania Utility Commission, David W. Sweet, testified that Act 164 of 2016 was passed by the Pennsylvania Legislature to regulate TNCs with a focus on the safety of passengers and regulation of TNCs. He said that typically labor issues, such as driver dissatisfaction with compensation, are outside of the scope of PUC oversight utilities.

In all 66 counties except Philadelphia, the PUC manages oversight of TNCs. In Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) oversees TNCs.

Scott Petri, of the PPA, said that Act 164 does not allow for enough oversight over TNCs. The PPA says that the inability to audit and collect data limits its ability to effectively address congestion issues, surge pricing and demands for service data.

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Offices of State Senator Lisa M. Boscola

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