Inappropriate government behavior

Inappropriate government behavior

There’s no excuse. Alcoa, citing an effort to save $5 million, will return its headquarters to Pittsburgh from New York in September after 11 years. And taxpayers will help pick up the tab,it appears..

The aluminum giant will move about 10 employees from The Big Apple to its curvy, swervy low-rise headquarters building on the North Shore. That includes CEO William Oplinger.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald says, as the Tribune-Review reports it, that a series of conversations between the company and state, county and city officials swayed Alcoa to return.

That is, public money was dangled before Alcoa. Just what kind of “incentives” remains undisclosed. That fact is as bad as the offering of the corporate wealthfare itself.

One poster on the Trib’s website wryly notes that “a new McDonald’s opening creates 30 jobs.” Ahem.

If Alco wants to save $5 million, that’s its business. But the public has no business subsidizing it.
Are you kidding? That’s the question Pennsylvania taxpayers should be asking Exelon Corp., operator of three of the Keystone State’s five nuclear power plants.

The Philadelphia Inquirer says the company has begun a long-term campaign in Harrisburg to enact some kind of price support system to help its nuclear operations survive.

The surge in natural gas supplies has been cleaning the clock of nuclear power generation. Nuclear price supports already have been enacted in Illinois and New York. And in New Jersey, they’re talking about giving nuclear the same kinds of tax credits enjoyed by solar and wind power.

Good grief. Talk about tripling down on economic failure and ignorance.

But not only are price supports another inappropriate example of government attempting to pick winners and losers and a rank perversion of the competitive marketplace, they are grossly inefficient, typically costing consumers more than producers benefit.

In addition to being morally wrong, that is.

Sadly, some in the Pennsylvania Legislature are entertaining this nonsense. The bipartisan Pennsylvania Nuclear Caucus has been up and running since last month, The Inquirer reports.

But the Pennsylvania marketplace is speaking. It’s past time for Keystone State legislators to listen.

Bid-rigging? That’s the serious charge leveled by a Westmoreland County paving contractor against the Democrat-majority county board of commissioners for resurrecting “project labor agreements.”

Tresco Paving Corp. tells the Trib that PLAs, as they are known, essentially freeze out nonunion companies from county government contracts by mandating safety training and apprenticeship programs. The Westmoreland PLA was negotiated by a Pittsburgh labor group, the Trib reports.

While the commissioners defend the PLA as legal and being primarily about safety. Tresco, citing its own lower bid on a recent project, says PLAs cost taxpayers more money.

Minority Republican Commissioner Charles Anderson says PLAs effectively discriminate against nonunion contractors.

It’s a position long held by, among others, the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. The ABC says project labor agreements are “a special interest scheme” that “drive up project costs between 12 and 18 percent, which results in fewer infrastructure improvements and reduced construction industry job creation.”

That is, protection of organized labor at the expense of everyone else.

The contractor trade group characterizes PLAs as nothing more than a “market-recovery program for unions” attempting to reverse years of steadily declining membership.

Whether PLAs rise to the level of criminality should be up to the courts to decide. But such deals certainly are not a proper role of government, as a number of appellate courts nationwide already have ruled.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org