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The Port Authority Contract: Reckless deal

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Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 9:04 p.m.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County's new contract with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 is a reckless deal.

How can we say that? After all, the accord reached by the perennially struggling mass-transit agency with the traditionally unctuous (as in greasy) union results in $60 million in savings over four years, right? And draconian service cuts have been avoided, right?

Indeed. But the very same contract relies on phantom revenues that, if they materialize at all, surely will be secured by hook or by crook or by poison pill.

To wit, $3 million of the additional $4.5 million pledged to the authority by Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald is expected to come from the Regional Asset District tax, that 1 percent piggyback levy to the 6 percent state sales tax. The cudgel will be held high to get the RAD board to acquiesce. If it doesn't, the board will be packed with those who will.

Additionally, the commonwealth does not have in hand its pledged $35 million in bailout money.

And if none of the funny money comes through and additional cost-cutting is required, the union gets to go back to its old greasy contract, another cudgel designed to five-finger taxpayer bailout money.

As Jake Haulk of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy notes, this “cobbled-together can-kicking exercise” once again shows that nobody in government has the stomach for facing down the unions or promoting a different plan to provide service more efficiently.

And that's the definition of reckless.

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