Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Turnpike Rebellion

While you were eating hot dogs or drinking beer or setting off illegal fireworks or doing whatever it was you were doing to celebrate the Fourth of July, I was at work.  Working holidays comes with the territory of being in the news biz and, quite honestly, it's not as bad as it sounds.  There's usually not that much going on (because it's a holiday), so you do your requisite holiday-related stories and be done with it.

But, this Fourth of July was a little different.  The state lawmakers were in session, hurriedly giving the budget the final OK and still have time left for fireworks.  This flurry of holiday activity spurred a ridiculous number of emails and satellite feeds.  Seriously, in mid-afternoon, there were, like, three budget-related satellite feeds from various legislative factions within 90 minutes.  Then, there was a live feed of Rendell signing the budget.  Then, in case you missed the live event, there was a later feed of I guess you would call it highlights from the signing ceremony.  There was also a feed featuring one of the state reps from our area talking about the progress of his bill to ban spot assessments.  After all those feeds, I'm full!  We don't get fed that well on a regular non-holiday day.

Interestingly - and this brings me to the point, finally - the one thing there didn't seem to be a feed on was the new development in the Turnpike Lease Saga.  Yes.  Squeezed in between the budget  finale and the fireworks finale was THIS missive from the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, one JOSEPH MARKOSEK, (D) Allegheny.  You can read the release if you want but, to sum it up, Markosek believes that the current proposal to lease the Turnpike to a Spanish consortium is muy malo.  He says the deal, as it stands now, is bad business and the legislation will not be put to a vote by his committee no way, no how.  If I may mix my languages here, it's pretty much kaput.

Of course, politics is a big soap opera.  Sometimes "dead" doesn't really mean dead.  There may still be light at the end of the Lehigh Tunnel.

I say that because, better late than never, PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION PARTNERS (that's English for the Spanish consortium) put out THIS news release.  It basically says that PTP is glad that the lawmakers shot down the current proposal, thus proving that they, the lawmakers, have the mettle to stand up to the big, bad TURNPIKE COMMISSION and not be bullied into a hasty (read negative) vote against the lease.   In other words, PTP's point seems to be that a "no" vote now would be worse than no vote.

The gov. kept quiet about the whole thing, choosing instead to limit his holiday TALKING POINTS to the new budget.

What does it all mean?  Tune in this fall to find out.

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