Key Points from Senate Budget Hearings with Department of State, Department of Transportation

HARRISBURG – Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned the Department of State and Department of Transportation about election integrity, voter outreach, mass transit and the future of the Motor License Fund during today’s budget hearings.

Department of State

The department is requesting an increase of $5.2 million for “Voter Registration and Education” activities throughout the commonwealth. Committee members sought details from Secretary Al Schmidt on the initiative and assurances that the outreach would occur in rural areas as well as urban and suburban.

Members also explored Gov. Josh Shapiro’s request for $474,000 of new funding for a Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors (SURE) initiative “to aid in the promotion of secure and fair elections” and sought details on how counties are using the election integrity grant funding the General Assembly authorized in 2022.

Questions about when multistate licensing compacts will be fully implemented, and the timeline and cost to make improvements to the state professional licensure system were also raised.

Full Hearing

 Sen. Scott Martin on the use of Artificial Intelligence in campaigns and elections, the importance of poll workers, the future of Pennsylvania’s workforce, funding for the State Athletic Commission, and more

Video Highlights

Questions were raised about the department’s ability to reach all registered voters under Gov. Shapiro’s proposed $5 million in additional funding for voter education. The department was strongly encouraged to ensure voters in rural, urban and suburban areas are treated equally under the program.

Additional funding for special elections was included in the budget, but it is unclear whether it will cover the costs of an increasing number of elections to fill legislative vacancies.

The department offered an update on the status of the Election Integrity Grant Program created by lawmakers in 2022 to prevent private funding for the administration of elections.

After implementing a new automatic voter registration system at PennDOT offices, the department was encouraged to consider adding a similar system for individuals applying for a concealed carry permit.

The General Assembly was not consulted on the creation of Gov. Shapiro’s Election Threats Task Force. The department was encouraged to involve the legislature in any election security efforts going forward.

The department provided an update on the amount of time it takes to get most professional licenses, which has improved recently. This stands in contrast to other state agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection, which still force applicants to wait several months for permits.

The department has not issued any refunds as a result of the Shapiro administration’s money-back guarantee for license and permitting review.

Concerns were raised about the need for new protections for consumers who are filing paperwork to open a business.

An update was provided on efforts to fill vacancies on the State Board of Nursing.

The department was urged to make improvements to the cancer drug repository program to help more patients.

Department of Transportation

Ongoing concerns about the sustainability of the Motor License Fund and commonwealth transportation funding were among the topics discussed with Secretary Michael Carroll. Replacing funds lost to electric vehicle use remains a challenge as the phasing-out of State Police from the Motor License Fund continues.

The committee received an update on the status of the replacement of the six interstate bridges that were included in former Gov. Tom Wolf’s costly Major Bridge Replacement P3 Program, which was strongly opposed by Senate Republicans. The staggering price tag stands at nearly $6 billion.

The state share of the cost of the I-95 bridge construction project in Philadelphia, efforts to collect unpaid PA Turnpike tolls and the status of Pennsylvania’s rail safety efforts were also explored.

Full Hearing

 Sen. Martin on the future of highway and bridge funding, the need to remove the State Police from the Motor License Fund, right-sizing mass transit, and more

Video Highlights

Pennsylvania taxpayers are on the hook for $6 billion in costs to repair and maintain just six bridges due to terrible decisions made by the previous administration.

The urgent need for permitting reform to help advance critical PennDOT projects was discussed. Ways to potentially help reduce costs for bridge replacement projects were also explored.

The need to remove the Pennsylvania State Police from the Motor License Fund was highlighted.

Legislation to ensure electric vehicle owners pay their fair share for highway and bridge repairs was highlighted.

The department was encouraged to support commonsense emission requirement reforms.

PennDOT has realized $225 million in savings as a result of the change to eliminate registration stickers.

An update was provided on repairs to the I-95 bridge in Philadelphia and lessons learned during that process.

An update was provided on efforts to collect unpaid tolls.

Changes to the formula for money distributed to county maintenance programs were discussed.

The department offered an overview of the Alternative Fuels Tax and its uses.

Rail safety was discussed in light of the Norfolk Southern train derailment last year.

You can find recaps and video from every Senate budget hearing at


CONTACT: Jason Thompson

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