Thank you, thank you, thank you!
A hearty round of applause to Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled House and Senate! By granting GOP Governor Tom Corbett his most highly-sought prize — the nation’s highest gas and diesel taxes — the legislature has ensured two things: 1) Tommy Boy will lose next year’s election by an even bigger margin, and 2) he is now likely to achieve the impossible: an approval rating in the single digits.
To be fair, the last one’s not all that hard, since he was already in the toilet at a historically low 17 percent approval.
About the only thing more monumental than the rear-ending Corbett just gave his citizens via the second-largest tax increase in state history is his "bi-partisan" legacy, as no one has done more for the Democratic Party.
By being himself, the Governor has already presided over the GOP losing the Attorney General’s office for the first time in history (his former position, where he botched the Jerry Sandusky investigation). Additionally, under his "leadership," Republicans have lost ten percent of their senators, Democrats won the other two statewide offices (Treasurer and Auditor General), and Corbett’s hand-picked U.S. senate candidate — who supported both Barack Obama and Joe Sestak — got crushed in last year’s primary, coming in an embarrassing third.
Corbett’s insistence on the tax- and fee-laden transportation bill, now law, will, quite possibly, give the Democrats control of the Senate for the first time in decades and seriously erode the House’s sizable majority.
If that’s a "victory" for Corbett, what the hell’s a defeat?
Are the House and Senate also responsible for this debacle? Of course. They caved in, playing the go-along, get-along game. But it’s Tom Corbett on whose shoulders this disaster squarely falls.
And not only will it be a disaster of epic proportions, chasing jobs and revenue out of Pennsylvania, but it was wholly avoidable. Let’s review:
1) First and foremost, Corbett says his transportation law, which will increase gasoline prices by over 28 cents per gallon while diesel will skyrocket as much as 20 cents higher per gallon than prices in the next highest state, won’t violate his campaign pledge of no new taxes. And apparently the increases in drivers license, registration and title fees, as well as a six-fold increase in moving violation penalties, don’t count as "taxes" either.
He can play semantics all day long, but a tax is a tax is a tax.
Even though Corbett is generally considered one of the most intellectually-challenged politicians in the nation, that one hits a new low. He has already violated his pledge by raising taxes several times, but now he expects us to believe that the mammoth spike at the pump won’t be directly caused by the bill he pushed? Maybe the Toronto mayor isn’t the only one using mind-altering substances.
2) The tax increase was completely unnecessary. The Harrisburg think-tank Commonwealth Foundation spells it out: Pennsylvania spends $71,000 per road mile, 11th highest of any state; state highway spending exceeds $660 per person, more than 26 other states; and transportation spending has doubled over the last 17 years. That’s not too shabby.
Maybe if Corbett hadn’t bailed out a shipyard to build ships with no buyers, spent taxpayer money to build a baseball stadium for the Yankees’ AAA affiliate, wasted millions on legal fees to stop the NCAA sanctions against Penn State (which he favored before he was against them), and dished out huge consulting fees trying to outsource the lottery to a foreign firm (just to name a few), there would be enough money to avoid our getting bent over the oil barrel.
3) Corbett says this legislation will create 50,000 jobs and save 12,000 others. But wait. He always claimed that government doesn’t create jobs — only the private sector does. Guess that was campaign rhetoric, just another example, on a very long list, of Corbett’s say-one-thing-but-do-the-opposite existence.
Let’s be very clear here. Massive tax increases never create jobs. In this case, the reason is obvious. Since 100 percent of everything we buy gets delivered via truck, and trucks use lots of gas and diesel fuel, trucking companies will be shelling out substantially more in fuel costs. One of two things will happen: A) some will go out of business, as numerous companies did when fuel costs spiked in 2008 (translation for Corbett: loss of jobs), or B) some will move out of Pennsylvania to more tax-friendly states (loss of jobs). And as has been the case since the Phoenicians, business taxes and fees will be passed along to the consumer, and small businesses will be forced to raise prices and lay off employees (loss of jobs).
That should have been a simple enough concept, but since Corbett and many legislators have never worked in the private sector, never had to meet a payroll, and never experienced the catastrophic results of a huge tax increase, what did we expect?
4) Millions will gas up in border states, depriving Pennsylvania of any gas tax revenue (anytime New York does something better, you know it’s bad). But this is nothing new, as billions in revenue are lost as Pennsylvanians buy liquor elsewhere to avoid the 18 percent Johnstown Flood Tax (the tax to rebuild that city from the 1936 flood), and sales tax on top of that, so why should buying gas in other states be any different?
5) Another half-billion will go into that bottomless pit known as public transit. Great. So busses will continue to operate with 2 people on board and SEPTA once again gets away with not having to operate like an efficient business. And why should it? The taxpayer bailouts never end!
6) More of our tax money will go toward the Pennsylvania Turnpike, despite five consecutive years of toll hikes. During that time, tolls have risen a whopping 70 percent for drivers paying cash and 35 percent for EZ PASS, yet more of our money is now thrown into that black hole. Nothing like perpetuating a massive failure.
7) Despite the predictions of so-called "political experts" who think Corbett will benefit from this tax hike, nothing could be further from the truth. No one ever votes on transportation funding at the ballot box. Sure, polls showed that people wanted their bridges and roads repaired — but those surveys conveniently left out the part about gas taxes going through the roof. When that tidbit is mentioned, support tanks.
Yet Corbett thinks that people will reward him for the privilege of sitting through endless construction and congestion, while seeing their gas gauge constantly scream "cha-ching."
If the Governor were a comedian, he would be a gas. But since we’re getting the "close your eyes" gas nozzle treatment, it’s no laughing matter.
But there’s a bright spot. At least his single digit approval will be.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. He can be reached at [email protected]
About the Author
Chris Freind writes a weekly column for the Daily Times. Reach the author at [email protected] .