The Port Authority’s budget has changed
At the end of June our Policy Brief on the preliminary budgets for Port Authority’s (PAAC) 2019-20 fiscal year noted that the operating budget had a $29 million deficit and the capital budget was much lower than prior years due to a lawsuit over the use of Turnpike tolls for mass transit.
The PAAC board met in late September to consider amendments to the budgets and approved changes that will affect authority finances for the remainder of the fiscal year.
On the operating side, the deficit was erased by applying $28.4 million in deferred state operating assistance that somehow materialized. This raised operating grants from $270 million in the preliminary budget to $298 million. When combined with operating revenues (passenger fares, advertising and demand-response service) total revenues increased from $376 million in the preliminary budget to $403.5 million. The expenditure total decreased slightly, from $405.1 million to $403.5 million, with slight changes to wages and salaries and pensions and employee benefits resulting in the net decrease.
On the capital side there is significant change. The Turnpike Commission issued $800 million in bonds for “lease grant or other payments to [PENNDOT] in accordance with Act 44 and Act 89” after the lawsuit was dismissed in U.S. District Court. The decision was upheld by a U.S. appeals court in August.
What was a $58.1 million PAAC capital budget has increased to $230.9 million. The state share of Act 89, Section 1514, money increased from $28.8 million to $183 million, the overall state share to $184.5 million. As a result the local contribution from Allegheny County also increased from $0.9 million to $6.9 million. Federal capital dollars increased by $11 million to $34.4 million.
While the Port Authority would view the ruling and the subsequent funding change in this year’s budget as a victory, the decision provides little relief for the Turnpike’s debt and the planned rate increases that drivers will face well into the future.