Thursday, March 6, 2008

Common sense in Harrisburg

It's not often that I see this, so it definitely caught my attention the other day when I saw an Associated Press story in which members of our Legislature were making good sense when talking about the handling of our money and state assets. The subject was a House Democratic study of a proposal to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private company. The idea is to raise money to repair the state's crumbling roads and bridges, and perhaps provide some funding for mass-transit programs. The House study found significant risks involved in a turnpike lease and suggested that an alternative plan to place tolls on Interstate 80 is a better way to go. "I think the analogy is a very simple one," Majority Whip Keith McCall, D-Carbon, told the AP. "If your house needs a new roof, you don't sell your house to the roofer. You find what equity you have in your home and you borrow against that equity at the lowest financial rate you can find." The House study also pointed out that any company paying billions of dollars to secure a turnpike lease would likely have to impose "aggressive toll increases" in order to recoup that money. That means higher costs to transport goods on the turnpike and, in turn, higher costs for us when we buy those goods. The I-80 tolls would have a similar effect, but most likely to a lesser degree. Also, what are the odds that the folks in Harrisburg would spend those up-front billions wisely? Rep. Joseph Markosek, an Allegheny County Democrat, doesn't think that's a good bet. "There are many areas that I can cite in my 25 years here where we have not been very good stewards of a large amount of cash sitting around." Amen, brother. Now, if we could just get them to use some of that common sense to get the state out of the alcohol business.



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