GOP Legislators Call SEPTA Funding A Form of “Welfare”

Some of our betters in Harrisburg apparently think so. City Paper’s Dan Denvir reports:

Funding for SEPTA and other public transit is “subsidizing a minority of our population’s bus fare, which is just more welfare,” said state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), according to an e-mail discussion obtained by the Capitolwire news service (subscription only).

Metcalfe’s comments were sparked by an e-mail sent out by Rep. Tom Killion (R-Delaware) citing “a new report [that] showed 27 percent of the state’s transportation funding went to southeastern Pennsylvania – Bucks, Philadelphia, Delaware, Chester and Montgomery counties – while that region had 32 percent of the state population and 40 percent of the state’s economic activity.”

Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Washington) joined Metcalfe in criticizing Killion, saying that “the core point is that opponents don’t believe the taxpayers should be funding a mass transit operating fund in the first place…They are fed up with, as they most often say, ‘pouring money down a black hole of inefficiency, patronage and corruption.’ If these investments are necessary then the private sector should and will invest in them. I have had five town halls in the last two weeks and people are disgusted with mass transit funding.”

Here’s some math for you: If southeastern Pennsylvania has 32 percent of the population and 40 percent of the state’s economic activity, while drawing just 27 percent of the state transportation dollars, that effectively means that we in the Philadelphia region are … subsidizing transportation funding for the rest of the state.

Who wants to talk about welfare now?

And hey: Yeah, let’s privatize all the transportation system guys. Tell me: Who’s going to want to build and maintain a road to Butler, Sen. Metcalfe? Who is going to make a profit off of connecting Washington to the rest of the world? Are you ready to start paying hefty tolls every time you leave city limits? And hey, no cheating by collecting fuel taxes, like you do, or using eminent domain to make planning the streets easier. Market prices and negotiating for every foot of road, gentlemen. How far do you think you’ll get?

Listen: SEPTA isn’t perfect. Yes, it has all the problems of governance that, well, any institution in Philly has. But it also, generally, works. It’s a public good that’s, well, good.