About that transportation bill … |

About that transportation bill …

Colin McNickle

The Corbett administration continues to play euphemism games over the whopping wholesale gasoline tax increase adopted last week by Republicans running Harrisburg. “I don't see it as a tax increase,” Mike Barley, Gov. Tom Corbett's campaign manager, told the Trib's Brad Bumsted. He rationalizes it as “removing an artificial cap” on the tax.

Yes, welding goggles are difficult to see through.

But Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Delmont, had the best counter to the euphemism, calling the massive tax-jacking the “politics of plunder.”

Political euphemisms are nothing new, of course. Pols long have tried to sugarcoat tax hikes as “investments,” “revenue-enhancers,” “securing our future” or, as Mr. Corbett did last week, “set(ting) the stage for … economic prosperity.”

How about simply telling the truth? All euphemism games do is perpetuate the notion that all politicians are weasels. And that's quite unfair to weasels. …

Pennsylvanians were able to snatch a wee bit of carrot off the stick that is the shaft that is the gas tax hike. The prevailing wage, that inflated union wage, now will apply to government projects of $100,000 or higher. The old threshold, in place since 1961, had been $25,000.

Indeed, local governments stand to save a healthy chunk of money, given that cartel wages are said to inflate costs of public projects at that level, according to one study, an average of between 10 percent and 17 percent. Other studies have pegged the premium (some would call it “union tribute”) at nearly 30 percent.

That said, taxpayers will continue to subsidize organized labor on the kind of multimillion-dollar projects the transportation tax-jacking is expected to fund. One can only wonder how much less the gasoline tax increase would have been had the public not continued to be forced to underwrite this kind of government-sanctioned extortion. …

And, hey, what's a taxpayer-shafting tax increase that will pay tribute to not only the organized-labor cartel but also the contractor-state transportation complex without a little “discretionary” money for pols to throw around to grease the skids and garner favor?

The legislation authorizes a kitty of tens of millions of dollars, controlled by the executive branch and legislative leaders, who essentially get to pick “worthy” projects, jointly, for funding.

Soon-to-depart state Sen. Jim Ferlo of Pittsburgh likens it to the Walking Around Money (WAMs) of old. And while it might not be an exact parallel, and while spring is still a season and a third away, the smell of ramps is in the air, if you catch the pungency of it all.

Once upon a time, when it appeared that the Legislature was at an impasse on the transportation bill, the Corbett administration slapped up weight restriction signs on oodles and boodles of “deficient” bridges across the commonwealth.

The timing roundly was seen as a political ploy to put public pressure on lawmakers to pass a funding bill. After all, if Izzy Kabizzy has to travel an additional 10 miles to deliver his widgets, he wouldn't be very happy about the inconvenience or the cost of the detour.

The test of the sincerity of the sign-slapping will come if those signs stay in place until the “deficient” spans are fixed or if, magically, they come down.

If the latter is the case, wouldn't you just love to know the cost of such political chicanery?

Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412-320-7836 or [email protected]).

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.