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Corbett says $25 million in Port Authority concessions not enough to trigger state funding

| Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, 3:30 p.m.

Even if Port Authority's largest labor union and management give up $25 million in concessions, Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday, it would not be enough for him to bail out the agency facing historic cuts.

During a stop in Beaver County, the Shaler Republican reiterated that the state won't provide funding to help close a $64 million deficit in Port Authority's $333.1 million budget until his administration sees “significant movement” from the agency to reduce expenses.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has said in recent weeks that he is trying to obtain $15 million in concessions from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 in ongoing contract talks, along with $10 million from Port Authority management. Fitzgerald said he believed such give-backs would help unlock added state funding of up to $35 million to prevent service cuts of 35 percent.

When asked if he considered such concessions enough to unlock the state money, Corbett said, “They have a ways to go yet.”

“They have to resolve their differences significantly before we can step in as a state.”

Corbett would not say what amount of concessions might prompt the state to step in.

ATU Local 85 President Steve Palonis wasn't taken aback by the governor's comments.

“In all fairness to the governor's statement, he is looking for more than just that 15 and 10 (in million-dollar concessions). Those are just up-front savings. That doesn't pertain to legacy costs,” Palonis said, referring to pension and retiree health-care costs.

The so-called legacy costs have risen 195 percent in eight years while all other expenses dropped 4 percent. They represent 21.5 percent of the agency's budget.

Palonis said reducing the long-term costs are a focal point of the contract talks.

“We're working on that,” he said, declining to offer specifics.

Fitzgerald and Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie declined to comment.

Staff writer Tim Puko contributed to this report. Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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