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What’s that smell?: WAMs return to Harrisburg |

What’s that smell?: WAMs return to Harrisburg

Gov. Tom Corbett’s spokesman insists the tax hike at the heart of Pennsylvania’s new $2.3 billion transportation plan isn’t really a tax hike; rather, the plan is “removing an artificial cap” on the wholesale gasoline tax. So, it figures that legislative leaders insist that $40 million going next year to the Commonwealth Finance Authority, an agency they control, isn’t really the return of infamous “walking-around money,” better known as WAMs.

But no euphemism can change how that money — and another incestuous $40 million that the PennDOT secretary gets to spend in consultation with legislative leaders — is as ripe for abuse as WAMs were. And no denial of “quid pro quo” politicking can alleviate suspicions that those dollars — along with promises of projects in their districts — helped flip lawmakers’ votes to win passage of the multibillion-dollar package.

That’s what Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, contends. He voted against the bill and considers the PennDOT secretary’s $40 million a WAM. And on the opposite end of the political spectrum, Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, criticized the bill for reviving WAMs.

A spokesman for House Republicans claims the $40 million for the Commonwealth Finance Authority was intended “to have some legislative input but overall accountability and set standards.” Yet history shows that legislative leaders disdain true accountability.

All this effort to fool the public betrays this funding package’s real nature: It’s Harrisburg politics as usual.

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