Pennsylvania – the state you hate to love

Columnist : Albert Paschall

Last March Philadelphia native Tristan Mabry topped over 22,000 entries in a contest to write Pennsylvania’s new slogan: “the state of independence.” It’s OK, I suppose, but its really not 21st century stuff. It conjures up those stiff pictures of Washington and Franklin in their powdered wigs a couple of hundred years ago. With all the problems the state has I’ve got a better slogan. As this New Year begins we should be the state “you hate to love.” It fits so well with so much of what we’re doing these days that I suspect it’s really going to take off. People will be demanding that it be put back on license plates like that old favorite: “you’ve got a friend in Pennsylvania.”

You’ve got to hate to love the $34 million in taxpayer subsidies going to the Comcast cable monopoly for a new skyscraper in Philadelphia. The economies of scale in keeping the cable giant in the state make a great deal of sense. Trenton or Wilmington could easily have dropped that kind of money to get those jobs. That Comcast didn’t buy an existing skyscraper to help offset a glut of empty office space in the Philadelphia market and got the state subsidy anyway is only proof of how bad the business climate is in Pennsylvania.

You’ve got to hate to love $300 million plus in new taxes that the general assembly will probably approve soon to fund Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, Pittsburgh’s Port Authority Transit and 40 other transit systems in the state. So-called dedicated funding will probably include higher auto inspection fees, higher taxes on auto parts and Governor Rendell’s favorites: higher beer and gasoline taxes. If there isn’t any new funding in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties SEPTA’s cutbacks and higher fares would put about 100,000 more cars a day on already clogged roads. Commuters would burn a lot more gas stuck in traffic offsetting the couple of cents a gallon the legislature is going to throw at them. The only hope is that Republicans in the House and Senate will hold off for more accountability from the transit systems and that SEPTA general manager Faye Moore will actually appear in public to prove that she exists.

You’ve got to hate to love the tax breaks you are not going to get on your property when slot machines roll out in Pennsylvania. The wild eyed estimates of gambling proponents call for about 60% of the households in the state to lose $1,000 or more throwing quarters at slot machines. These estimates don’t bother to account for competition from casinos just across the border in New Jersey, Ohio and New York. At any rate the increases in automotive taxes will probably eat up any savings the local school district might be able to give you.

You’ve got to hate to love the war between the east and the west that’s going to break out in the next couple of weeks in the Keystone state. We’ve never seen anything like it and can only hope is that someday the wounds will heal. The bitterness, the agony and torture will pit fathers against sons, mothers against daughters, brothers against sisters and leave the governor chewing cheese steaks and sausages until even he can’t eat any more. We’re going to love to hate the Eagles playing the Steelers in the Super Bowl.

Albert Paschall
Senior Commentator
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.

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