Rendell on Obama, Biden, Hillary and your roads & taxes

 Governor Ed Rendell told me in conversation on NBC10 that he believes President Barack Obama is not in danger of being a one-term President, but he did have a criticism about the Administration.  Says Governor Rendell, “I think the President’s done a good job, his communication’s strategy has been awful…We got outspun on the  stimulus. We got outspun on health care.”  Rendell defended health care reform as a deficit reducer.  As to the suggestion by former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder that maybe President Obama should replace on the 2012 ticket Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton as his running mate, Rendell said, “Joe Biden has done an excellent job.  Would Hillary be stronger electorally for the ticket?  Sure… Some people have gone even further and said Joe Biden would be Secretary of State.  If this were baseball, it would be a great trade.”  But, Rendell believes it won’t happen and that Joe Biden has performed well as Vice-President.  I asked him who has helped the President more publicly, Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden?  He said, “Well, she has because she’s had a different portfolio.”

Governor Rendell also continued his push to make up the $472 million gap in transportation funding since the federal government struck down the plan to toll part of I-80.   He wants the legislature to go above that number, saying in all, about 3.5 billion dollars needs to be spent every year to fix Pennsylvania’s crumbling bridges, roads and mass transit.  Says Rendell, “We’re (the U.S.) on  the way to becoming a third rate economic power,” given what other nations such as China, are doing.  As for legislators who refuse to consider any types of tax and fee increases, the Governor sees them taking chances with people’s lives and livelihoods.  I asked him if they are playing “road roullette” with people’s lives.  Rendell answered, “You don’t want to use scare tactics and necessarily say that but there’s no question…the absolute truth is we are playing Russian roulette. We’ve got to get to it(fixing roads, bridges, mass transit).”  Rendell believes most people understand the need for more revenue when it comes to roads and bridges.  Says the Governor, “People aren’t dumb.  In Harrisburg they(the legislators) think we’re (the people) dumb as dirt.  They (the people) understand you get what you pay for…you gotta maintain things.  The people who favor this are the silent majority.”

Rendell’s plan to raise the money needed generally involves the four items below.  1. Tax the oil companies. 7 major oil companies who sell 13 billion gallons of fuel in Pennsylvania every year pay $70 million total and one of those 7 pays $35 billion of that.  The other oil companies avoid a much larger tax bite because they use the Delaware loophole.  2. Rendell would also raise the gas tax 3.5 to 4 cents a gallon.  It has not been raised since 1997.  3. He would also raise the annual vehicle registration fee with inflation.  4. The Governor says he likes the Republican-favored public-private partnerships, who involve “Hot Lanes” or other types of tolling.  He points to his recent joint announcement with Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie over expansion of the Scudder Falls Bridge over the Delaware as evidence of that.  But, Rendell adds that at best such parternships would fix only about 8 to 10 percent of the problem.

 As for why he’s fighting so hard and so publicly when many legislators and voters see him as a lame duck, Governor Ed Rendell responded, “I don’t have a lot of clout left because I am going out the door, but people pay me to serve a full 4 years.  Up until January 17th I’m the governor and I’m going to take advantage of it every day.”

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