About that transportation bill ...

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Corbett administration continues to play euphemism games over the whopping wholesale gasoline tax increase adopted last week by Republicans running Harrisburg. “I don't see it as a tax increase,” Mike Barley, Gov. Tom Corbett's campaign manager, told the Trib's Brad Bumsted. He rationalizes it as “removing an artificial cap” on the tax.

Yes, welding goggles are difficult to see through.

But Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Delmont, had the best counter to the euphemism, calling the massive tax-jacking the “politics of plunder.”

Political euphemisms are nothing new, of course. Pols long have tried to sugarcoat tax hikes as “investments,” “revenue-enhancers,” “securing our future” or, as Mr. Corbett did last week, “set(ting) the stage for ... economic prosperity.”

How about simply telling the truth? All euphemism games do is perpetuate the notion that all politicians are weasels. And that's quite unfair to weasels. ...

Pennsylvanians were able to snatch a wee bit of carrot off the stick that is the shaft that is the gas tax hike. The prevailing wage, that inflated union wage, now will apply to government projects of $100,000 or higher. The old threshold, in place since 1961, had been $25,000.

Indeed, local governments stand to save a healthy chunk of money, given that cartel wages are said to inflate costs of public projects at that level, according to one study, an average of between 10 percent and 17 percent. Other studies have pegged the premium (some would call it “union tribute”) at nearly 30 percent.

That said, taxpayers will continue to subsidize organized labor on the kind of multimillion-dollar projects the transportation tax-jacking is expected to fund. One can only wonder how much less the gasoline tax increase would have been had the public not continued to be forced to underwrite this kind of government-sanctioned extortion. ...

And, hey, what's a taxpayer-shafting tax increase that will pay tribute to not only the organized-labor cartel but also the contractor-state transportation complex without a little “discretionary” money for pols to throw around to grease the skids and garner favor?

The legislation authorizes a kitty of tens of millions of dollars, controlled by the executive branch and legislative leaders, who essentially get to pick “worthy” projects, jointly, for funding.

Soon-to-depart state Sen. Jim Ferlo of Pittsburgh likens it to the Walking Around Money (WAMs) of old. And while it might not be an exact parallel, and while spring is still a season and a third away, the smell of ramps is in the air, if you catch the pungency of it all.

Once upon a time, when it appeared that the Legislature was at an impasse on the transportation bill, the Corbett administration slapped up weight restriction signs on oodles and boodles of “deficient” bridges across the commonwealth.

The timing roundly was seen as a political ploy to put public pressure on lawmakers to pass a funding bill. After all, if Izzy Kabizzy has to travel an additional 10 miles to deliver his widgets, he wouldn't be very happy about the inconvenience or the cost of the detour.

The test of the sincerity of the sign-slapping will come if those signs stay in place until the “deficient” spans are fixed or if, magically, they come down.

If the latter is the case, wouldn't you just love to know the cost of such political chicanery?

Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@triblive.com).

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