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COLTS Get Reprieve On Spending Cuts

June 28, 2019

State legislators voted to delay a privatization plan that public-bus system operators say could threaten shared-ride bus trips. The House voted 198-1 and the Senate 49-1 on Thursday on legislation to delay the plan until at least December. Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to sign the legislation. Backers say the delay will allow time for a more thorough analysis and study of an idea quietly inserted into a larger bill at the last minute last June without hearings. The earlier bill directed the state Department of Human Services to develop a plan to use statewide or regional private brokers to provide non-emergency medical shared rides under Medicaid. Officials of the County of Lackawanna Transit System and other shared-ride operators said brokers would take away funding critical to providing rides for physically impaired, low-income and senior citizen shared-ride clients. They said the change could also force service cuts or fare hikes on regular bus routes. COLTS executive director Robert Fiume said he’s happy with the delay, but cautioned opponents will have to keep up pressure to block the idea permanently. “It’s not over, but we’ve got the extra time,” Fiume said. “We’re going to keep pushing” against the idea. In a statement, state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp., said the original bill had “serious flaws.” “It may or may not work in the cities, but in smaller communities and rural areas, it definitely has the possibility of driving up costs and hindering services to those relying on the system, such as people with serious medical conditions,” Baker said. “Our seniors will be relieved this problem has been pushed off before they suffer any unintended consequences.” Contact the writer: bkrawczeniuk@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9147; @BorysBlogTT on Twitter.

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