Sunday, December 25, 2011

Rant on transit funding (Apr. 9, 2010)

Current mood: disgusted

This is from an email I sent yesterday, inquiring about my thoughts on why tolling I-80 failed. For those who missed the headline, Pennsylvania's plan to put tolls on I-80 was supposed to pay for much needed highway and bridge repairs statewide, and provide a reliable funding stream for PA's municipal mass transit systems.

* * *

I really didn't want to be a wet blanket, but I knew this was coming. This was the third attempt to make this happen, and the third decision was based on the same reasoning as the first and second: It just isn't legal to do what PA wanted to do.

Marilyn Skolnick is right, Act 44 was poorly written. It was agreed to by those who were fighting against it because they knew what the state wanted to do would fail. As it did. Three times now.

To me, it was a screw-up from the word "go", since it basically borrowed future money to pay for current operations. Now we're $2 Billion in the hole and no way to pay for what's already spent, plus interest, let alone anything going forward.

The right and proper thing to do is for Harrisburg to fund transit properly out of the General Fund, and raise taxes to do so. That Just. Ain't. Gonna. Happen. Hasn't ever happened.

Reason is not our friend. Reason falls on deaf ears. Those who are most deaf live in the northern half of the state, but not all. Listen to the so-called logic of leaders on the GOP side like Sam Smith in Punxsutawney, who I find it difficult to say anything about in the presence of a lady, and true nutcases like the rep from Cranberry Twp, Daryl Metcalfe. They always vote against transit. "Just plain mean-spirited" is the most churchlike language I can muster. They, and 80 to 100 like them, are what we are up against.

I've been in the midst of this debate since 1993. It's been going on for far longer than that. I have a newspaper from 1982 with a transit funding story that, if I showed it to you without the date, you would not guess is from nearly 30 years ago.

Please re-read my P-G opinion piece from 2004: Precious little has changed.

1 comment:

bus15237 said...

Comment on the original 2010 post:

MySpace Man
Honestly, I not completely familiar with Act 44.

As someone who many times agreeds to "the so-called logic of leaders on the GOP Side", I can agree that if you can't pay for something, don't fund it. Not aimed towards transit...just aimed at everything. Part of the problem we're in is because people just don't know how to say "we can't afford this right now". And that doesn't just go for government, that goes for people too.

People want more, more and more. But don't sit down to do the math at the end of the night and see how much this really will cost us. When prices of things become too high, sometimes we have to say NO. Even if that is nicer things like a bigger house, a nicer car or funding things that are't necessary. People live off credit cards, and can't figure out why they are so far in debt. Going to a discount retailer and having their credit card at 23% can't just think "well it's cheaper here" because after you tack on the interest, you see that it really isn't.

Stu, you cannot seriously expect anyone to raise their taxes when we're in a recession right now. People don't have jobs...everyone is tightening up...and stores are (IMO) wrongfully raising prices. The WORKING man and the POOR man are taking a hit...being nickled and dimed right into the poor house. Higher taxes and tolls will hurt the same people who elected the public officials in. That is political suicide and showing a gross negligence of the needs of the people.

One thing that we could ask our elected officials for is to allow Port Authority to have a rainy day fund of a percentage of the budget (let's say if they are able to keep costs down and would have a surplus, they are permitted to have a surplus of no more than 10% of the Fiscal Year's budget) Allowing not just Port Authority, but all PA transit systems to do that, will help when the economy gets back on track, will allow the Port Authority to save some money for a rainy day, and the next time we hit a slump like this, it won't be nearly as bad.

Instead of asking for new taxes, we really could take a long hard look at what we're paying for. Perhaps citizens and elected officials can take a look at other things that may not be needed as much that we waste money on. Perhaps even elected officials and government employees could take a pay freeze, or even a cut. Perhaps the ATU could take a pay freeze as a concession due to the hard times to economy and the Port Authority are having. And perhaps non-union employees, including the CEO, could take a pay freeze.

The latter is not popular. But we ALL need to work together to ensure that people in Allegheny County can maintain a reliable and affordable means on public transportation.