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Lawmakers Debate Over Gas Tax Money And What Needs To Be Done To Return It For Proper Purpose

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- For years now, Pennsylvanians have been paying the nation's third-highest gas tax, believing that $7 or $8 per fill-up was going for its designated purpose of fixing our bridges and roads.

But $4.2 billion of that did not go to fixing things.

"If the taxes are supposed to go somewhere. They should be going to the right place to have those things fixed," one man said Wednesday.

Two years ago, former Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found those billions had been diverted to pay for the state police instead. He calls it a betrayal of the public trust.

"The public has a right to be outraged," DePasquale said. "When they pay the gas tax, they are assuming that money is going to the roads and bridges that they are driving on, and the idea that $4.2 billion has been diverted, the public has a right to be outraged about that."

Over the past decade, a large portion of the gas tax has gone to cover state police patrols of municipalities that don't have police departments of their own. And in a statement, the governor's office says it has tried unsuccessfully to find a solution.

"Throughout this administration, the governor has proposed various ways to address state police funding, none of which have been supported by the Republican-led legislature, nor have they proposed sound funding solutions."

State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington County, said: "They wanted to put a $25 per captive tax on every municipality that used state police. These people are paying taxes every year already."

Bartolotta said Governor Tom Wolf's solution would unfairly impact rural districts, but the lawmaker agrees some solution must be found.

"If the legislators at the time who passed this gas tax did it for the purpose of repairing our roads and bridges, that's where the money should go," she said.

On Wednesday, the governor's office also disputed DePasquale's assertion that if the money were properly allocated, it could have fixed a problem bridge like the Fern Hollow Bridge, saying the money is earmarked for state bridges, not county or city-owned bridges.

But with 2,800 problem bridges across the state, DePasquale said the distinction holds little water.

"Even if it is all state money, that only means it frees up other funds to help localities deal with their bridges. I mean we're all in this together," he said.

All agree now that this money should go to bridges and match the billion dollars in federal money coming to Pennsylvania under the infrastructure bill. They just haven't been able to reach a solution.

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