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Agencies feast on bigger slice of your pie

| Sunday, July 25, 2010

There always is some justification.

Ever notice that• Government entities and public utilities never want to take more of your money. They have fallen on hard times, and have no option but to separate you from more of your wallet's content than they did before.

Because we happen to be in an unusually active cycle of these justifications, you may have missed a few. Why don't we spend some quality time reviewing them?

• Port Authority of Allegheny County

Proposed fare increases: Base increase of 25 cents, with some one-way suburban fares rising to $4.

Authority justification: We thought the county drink tax that began in 2008 would generate sufficient revenue to indefinitely stave off fare hikes. But evidently there aren't enough alcoholics in the county to support a perpetually mismanaged public transit system.

• City of Pittsburgh

Proposed parking rate increases: Hourly rates rising to as much as $4.50 by 2015.

City justification: We need to raise a quick couple hundred million dollars to prop up the city's ailing pension fund, which we kind of forgot to adequately contribute to for a couple of decades.

Oh, don't give us that look. Like nothing's ever slipped your mind.

• Pennsylvania

Proposed increase to the state gasoline tax: 3.25 cents a gallon to the existing 31.2 cent per gallon levy — effective yesterday, if Gov. Ed Rendell had his way.

Rendell's justification: We have to pay for repairs to our crumbling roads and bridges, and you can't expect the state to use any of the $600 million we recently agreed to borrow to pay for legislators' pet projects in their districts to help get them re-elected. Nor can you expect the General Assembly to tap the $200 million slush fund it maintains for contingency purposes of an extremely vague nature.

• Pennsylvania

Proposed increase to motorist and vehicular fees: Annual vehicle registration fee, from $36 to $45; vehicle titles at purchase, from $22.50 to $28.13; annual inspection stickers, from $2 to $4.06; driver's license fees, from $21 to $23.10; and truck registration, from ranges of $58.50 to $1,687 to $73 to $2,109.

Rendell's justification: Oh, is it my turn to talk again• I thought I was done.

Look, you can't expect us to pay for all of the necessary road and bridge repairs simply by hiking the gasoline tax a measly 3.25 cents a gallon.

• Duquesne Light

Proposed rate hike: 9.3 percent, effective late September.

Company justification: Duquesne Light doesn't desire a rate increase this drastic, but we can't pass up the opportunity to perform this truly compassionate act.

The resulting service disconnections from this rate hike potentially will leave many customers without power. The darkness will leave them unable to review bank balances, which will be dwindling rapidly from increased payments for public transit, parking, gasoline and motorist and vehicular fees.

We will be modestly increasing our profits, but more importantly we will be significantly reducing the stress levels of thousands of people. You can't put a price on that kind of peace of mind.

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