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Investigative Reporting

Notes on a summer Sunday ...

| Sunday, June 21, 2009

If Ed Rendell's "economic development programs" are such a bloody success, as Gov. Bloody Mess keeps chanting, why does he propose a wallet-robbing personal income tax hike that will suck $1.5 billion out of the economy and result in the demise of more than 24,000 jobs• ...

If Gov. B.M. doesn't want to see a wholesale exodus of businesses from Pennsylvania, he'll shelve his proposal to once again interfere in the phaseout of the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax. This kind of behavior once was known as highwaymannery. Now we just call it government. Why should anyone invest in the Keystone State, the State of Confiscation• ...

If Republican members of the Pennsylvania Legislature want to truly serve taxpayers, they'll insist that the governor's scheduled closed-door session with House and Senate Democrats on Monday include Mr. Sunshine. Don't hold your breath, however. After all, if past is prologue, Republicans will end up being all too willing to once again meet late some weekend night in some back-alley conference room to secretly seal some deal that benefits their political fortunes while robbing your family's financial stability. ...

Predictably missing from the latest batch of glowing reports from outsiders about Pittsburgh's "wonderful" economy is, once again, any mention that the city is in state receivership, that its pension funds are close to insolvent, that it has to bribe families to attend its public schools and that its leaders generally believe that every fiscal hole can be filled only with higher taxes. What a shame that so few in the media ask the tough questions and so many regularly give these studies the chamber-of-commerce treatment. ...

The brainiacs advising Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the Act 47 recovery team have urged a 177 percent hike in the emergency services tax on residents and suburbanites who work in the city. Given the composition of the in-city work force, let's call this what it is -- a commuter tax. But if supporters want to have an intellectually honest debate about what non-city residents "cost" Pittsburgh, they'd better start cipherin' all of the economic activity -- and, thus, wealth and taxes produced -- that those commuting sucker fish (at least in the eyes of city fathers) generate. If not for them, Pittsburgh would not exist. ...

Here's a challenge to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development: As you lick your chops and pre-count all the multiplier-effect cash from the coming G-20 summit in Pittsburgh in September, also do a sobering accounting of all money that will be lost during the event thanks to security restrictions, business shutdowns, increased commute times and, heaven forbid, your run-of-the-mill protest by anarchists. Dare it be said that the G-20 very likely will have a de minimis or even a negative economic effect here. ...

More evidence that the first casualty in political advertising is the truth comes from Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato's gubernatorial campaign Web site. "Dan has shown that change and reform are ... principles for governing," the "Dan's Vision" part of the site proclaims. It's "principles over politics" for this cat, we are told. Odd, but that doesn't jibe with the facts of Mr. Onorato's blatant nose-thumbing of the county's Administrative Code, the county Home Rule Charter and the Pennsylvania Constitution on everything from the drink tax to the reassessment mess. ...

Speaking of Onorato , his efforts to use the courts to delay a final reckoning on his property tax reassessment debacle -- if not his gubernatorial aspirations -- appears to be right on schedule. Last month, the state Supreme Court deemed the ACE's machinations unconstitutional and ordered Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick to set the parameters of reassessment. But Onorato appealed, seeks a 180-day stay and hopes his legislative buddies will bail out his political behind. Just in time, of course, for the beginning of the 2010 governor's race. Here's hoping the Supremes see through Onorato's scheme. ...

If the Port Authority of Allegheny County wants to make a powerful statement about the dangers of running after its buses or standing too close to curbs while buses are cornering, it would place photographs of such accident scenes on the sides of those buses. It won't, of course. And more people will die.

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