Monday, November 13, 2006

One crisis after another

Get used to seeing the word "crisis" frequently during the next four years of an Ed Rendell administration.

Rendell's Ministry of Propaganda and his allies in the news media worked hard in the months leading up to the Nov. 7 election to persuade millions of Pennsylvania voters that things couldn't be any better in Pennsylvania. Now that the election is over, and Rendell gets another four years in the governor’s mansion, it's time for the truth to come out about the sorry state of the Commonwealth.

You didn't really believe those Rendell campaign commercials did you?

The first crisis that Pennsylvania has to deal with involves transportation. It will be followed by many more. Look for the pension crisis, the school funding crisis, the budget crisis, the healthcare crisis, etc.

Every one of those neglected areas will need billions of dollars to fix. And guess who will be paying the bill?

The chickens are coming home to roost for Rendell's first four years of runaway spending and irresponsible borrowing, corporate welfare and the diversion of funds to prop up poorly managed mass transit systems in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

One week after the election, the Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission, appointed by Rendell to study the state’s transportation infrastructure, has come back with some bad news.

In a 150-page report, the commission says Pennsylvania needs $1.7 billion to fix the state's highways and bridges and bankroll the perpetually failing SEPTA system. And where will this money come from? The commission would like Pennsylvania residents to cough up more to obtain a driver's license, register their vehicles and fill up a tank of gas.

The specifics will have to be ironed out by Rendell and the state Legislature, but the commission wants to see the 19-cents-per-gallon oil franchise tax raised by 11.5 cents per gallon. The higher gas tax, coupled with increased motor vehicle registration and license fees, would generate about $900 million for highway and bridge projects, the commission says.

The tax hikes won't stop there. The report also calls for raising $65 million for bridges and highways owned by counties and municipalities through an additional 1-cent increase in the oil franchise tax. The commission is also recommending a combination of state and local taxes to raise another $760 million for mass transit. The Rendell administration would raise its $576 million share by raising the 1 percent realty transfer tax by less than one percentage point; counties and municipalities would raise their shares by imposing local sales, earned-income, or realty-transfer taxes.

(Keep in mind that this new round of tax hikes is separate from the tax increases being considered by your local school board under Act 1, which Rendell signed into law earlier this year. Many school districts will be imposing earned-income tax hikes or increases in the personal income tax in a hair-brained scheme to lower property taxes. But in some school districts, up to 70 percent of taxpayers will end up paying more in taxes under Act 1. That's what Rendell and the state Legislature came up with as "tax relief" after months of negotiations. Also, Act 1 does not prevent school districts from raising property taxes every year.)

Rendell formed the transportation commission in early 2005 when the Republican-controlled Legislature refused to bail out the state's mismanaged transit agencies. Rendell siphoned more than $400 million in federal highway funds to keep SEPTA afloat until 2007. Guess what? SEPTA is running out of money again. SEPTA and the Port Authority of Allegheny County expect to run up an $80 million deficit in the first six months of 2007.

Don't you feel like a jerk right about now for re-electing Rendell? This is the thanks you get? He is going to raise the gas tax and make you pay a higher mortgage. The Associated Press calculates the typical driver will pay $84 more a year to cover the higher gas tax and fee increases. The proposed realty transfer tax increase would add about $60 a year to a 30-year, $150,000 mortgage for homeowners, according to The Associated Press.

And this is just the beginning. By re-electing Rendell, Pennsylvania voters guaranteed four more years of higher taxes to pay for the massive expansion of state spending — $6 billion so far — under Rendell. And don't forget about that $4 billion in borrowing during Rendell’s first four years in office. You and your children and your grandchildren will be paying off those loans long after Ed Rendell has moved on to bigger and better things.

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