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Our View: It's time to fix the bridges

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It’s frustrating when politics get in the way of progress. It’s a lesson we learned with the government shutdown, and a mistake we are repeating with the continued lack of agreement on a transportation spending bill for Pennsylvania.

The state House Monday voted 103-98 against a Republican proposal to raise gasoline taxes and a host of motorists’ fees in order to spend billions on roads, bridges and mass transit systems. It was a vote that teetered between passage and defeat until the last moment of the roll call.

It was also a punch to the gut for providing funding for the state’s ailing bridges and roads, and a shining example of just how divided the legislature is on this topic.

The House bill got 39 Democratic votes, the first time so many Democrats had voted to support an opposition party bill. House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Jefferson County, voted for the proposal while House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, voted “no,” exemplifying the split in the majority leadership.

Republicans, including Rep. Stephen Bloom, R-199, voted “no” and argued against a gas tax increase. State Reps. Sheryl Delozier, R-88, and Glen Grell, R-87, each voted “yes” to the proposal.

Some Democrats and Republicans argued against a Republican-backed provision calling for reform in the state’s prevailing wage laws, increasing the threshold on projects that require a set rate for contractors.

In the end, we still have bridges closed in Cumberland County and other bridges with weight restrictions. We still have roads that need to be repaired. We still have safety concerns that need to be addressed in some way.

Oftentimes it takes a catastrophic event to draw a reaction, to force people to work together and find a solution. We hope that isn’t the case here. We hope it doesn’t take a bridge collapsing and people getting hurt to make sure that funding is in place to fix those problems.

It’s time to work together to find a solution. Instead of saying absolutely not to prevailing wage reform or tax increases, let’s start talking about what we can do, where we can meet to find an answer.

Editor's Note: This article was edited to reflect changes on Nov. 20 at 12:22 p.m.

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