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Pittsburgh Laurels & Lances

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Laurel: To Allegheny County. It continues to tap the gold mine that is its public parks by contracting private companies to offer money-making recreational and dining activities. A zipline course and a bicycle cafe in North Park are the latest examples. These are smart moves that serve the public and help to defray the cost of government operations. Here's to more endeavors.

Lance: To Rich Fitzgerald. The Democrat Allegheny County chief executive has a rare something in common with Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Both insist that raising the Oil Company Franchise Tax is not a tax increase. This “not a tax increase” would add nearly 29 cents a gallon to the price of wholesale gasoline sales. And that “not a tax increase” will be passed on to consumers in the form of everything from higher prices at the pump to higher pizza delivery charges. Politicians say the darnedest things in denial, don't they?

On the “Watch List”: Your wallet. Saving West Penn Allegheny Health System from what otherwise would be a certain shuttering now will cost insurance giant Highmark Inc. nearly $1.2 billion. Allow us to rephrase that: Saving the beleaguered hospital system will cost Highmark ratepayers nearly $1.2 billion. That's because of a debt restructuring deal and an agreement to reimburse doctors at a higher rate. So, the question of the hour now becomes this: How much will Highmark's insurance rates jump because of it? If Highmark says they won't, it should form a club with Messrs. Fitzgerald and Corbett.

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