She says the legislature needs to issue a $600 million bond to PennDOT by Dec. 1 in order to ensure hundreds of projects are maintained.
It’s unclear exactly who is to blame for the lack of dedicated funding to PennDOT. Republicans have blamed the Wolf administration, claiming that PennDOT did not inform legislators soon enough about the need for a $600 million bond. PennDOT claims that Republican legislators aren’t listening closely enough, and said they have brought this up.
Williams just wants the issue solved. “The only question I want answered is, ‘How are you going to fix it?’” she says.
Williams says the governor’s office might be able to address the issue as a temporary fix, but adds that if nothing is done by Dec. 1, “We are going to have to shut down projects.”
“It’s estimated this could cost 240,000 jobs,” says Williams. “And right now we have no solution to stop that on December 1.”
She acknowledges that providing a $600 million bond will cost about $42-50 million to pay back. She says this "is not insignificant, but that pales in comparison to the unemployment and broken contracts we will have to spend if we let these projects shut down.”
*UPDATE* According to PennDOT effective December 1st, the attached list of projects will be suspended due to lack of funds to pay the bills. Additionally, all design work will be halted. The $600M bond authority requested by PennDOT was not included in the Fiscal Code. pic.twitter.com/0u16WQrxGe— Lindsey Williams (@SenWilliamsPA) November 21, 2020
Williams says without funding, hundreds of projects in state and dozens in Allegheny County will be in jeopardy, including a large project resurfacing project on Route 28 and the Etna Bypass and Highland Park Bridge.
“It would be hard pressed to find a community who doesn't have a project that would be impacted,” says Williams.
According to the Allentown Morning Call, state Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) said legislative budget leaders learned of the PennDOT shortfall on Nov. 10, and complained that this didn’t give them enough time to include necessary funding in the budget.
But Williams wonders why, nearly two weeks later, Republicans haven’t proposed a plan B to try to figure out how to fill the budget hole. She says that as a member of the minority party, she and other Democrats are not in on budget meetings.
She says either way, Republicans in the legislature are going to have to act since they control the chamber. Either they pass a bill to provide PennDOT funding before the session expires at the end of November, or they pass a bill when the session returns in January if Wolf is able to provide gap funding for a couple of months.
“You put ego aside, and politics aside, and you figure it out,” says Williams.