Sen. Costa blasts Republicans on transportation, liquor privatization bills
HARRISBURG — House Republicans have inappropriately linked liquor privatization legislation to increased transportation funding, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said on Monday.
Republicans in both chambers said no link exists.
Costa said the two pieces of legislation are tied because of “obstinate Republican leadership in the House.” Costa, D-Forest Hills, made the charge during a speech to the Pennsylvania Press Club. Costa said transportation funding is about safety and liquor privatization is about convenience.
“I’m offended by the linkage between something significant — safety — with something of luxury and convenience,” he said.
It’s not accurate that House Republicans are linking the issues, said Stephen Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods. There is nothing to link because a transportation funding bill has not passed either chamber, he said.
Legislation to increase the state’s transportation funding by $2.5 billion is in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Liquor privatization legislation passed the House in March and has been the topic of two Senate Law and Justice Committee hearings.
Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, said the only connection is that liquor privatization is the top nonbudget priority for House Republicans and transportation funding is for Senate Republicans.
“I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate about each chamber aggressively pursing its priorities,” Arneson said.
The transportation funding and Medicaid expansion are Senate Democrats’ top two priorities, Costa said. Pennsylvanians will benefit from jobs created because of the transportation funding and are not interested in liquor privatization, he said. Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act would create 35,000 to 39,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, according to a 2013 report from The Hospital & Healthcare Association of Pennsylvania. Expansion would provide $180 million during the first year, Costa said.
“This is what takes priority over someone who wants to get a bottle of wine, a bottle of spirits at (more) convenience,” Costa said.
Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Montgomery County, introduced a measure that would enable a full Senate vote on Medicaid expansion, and Costa said a vote could come in mid-June.
Megan Rogers is an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association.