HARRISBURG – Auditor General Jack Wagner has issued to the public a letter he sent this week to Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chief Executive Officer Roger E. Nutt, reiterating his belief that the turnpike’s mounting debt posed a long-term threat to Pennsylvania motorists and taxpayers.
Wagner’s letter, which is available to the public at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us, was in response to a Jan. 13 letter from Nutt, in which the turnpike CEO assured the auditor general that the turnpike could handle its growing debt. Wagner has since reiterated that the commission’s long-term debt has increased by 181 percent, from $2.6 billion to $7.3 billion, since the General Assembly approved Act 44 of 2007, which required the turnpike to provide $450 million a year in funding to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
“In looking at the unsustainable, hidden, and mounting debt imposed on the Turnpike by Act 44, I want to emphasize that I have seen this scenario before,” said Wagner, who has called on the General Assembly to repeal Act 44. “It does not end well for the toll payers and ultimately for the taxpayers of our commonwealth. The mandates of Act 44 require toll increases for the next 46 years creating a debt time bomb for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.”
The Act 44 funding agreement allowed the Turnpike Commission to toll Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania as another source of additional revenue, pending approval by the Federal Highway Administration. However, FHWA prohibited the tolling of I-80 on April 6, 2010, leaving the Turnpike Commission with the ability only to raise turnpike tolls and to increase borrowing as the only funding mechanisms for meeting its annual funding obligations to PennDOT.