Notes on the state of things

Notes on the state of things

The Post-Gazette reports that while Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) continues to struggle with year-over-year double-digit percentage losses in air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Allegheny County Airport posted a nearly 12 percent gain in year-over-year June levels in one category.

That increase is specific to “air taxi operations” which, as the P-G explains, “include any travel for hire, such as helicopters, corporate jets and private charters.”

That said, air taxi utilization remained down 15.5 percent for the first six months of 2020 over the same 2019 period, says the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

The June increase could be considered elementary with PIT’s severely truncated flight schedule. Available seats were down 66.3 percent in June over last June. Total year-over-year traffic was down by 78.2 percent, about an 18 percentage point improvement over April’s devastating 96 percent year-over-year tanking.

The multimillion-dollar question for the Airport Authority is if it will — if and when the pandemic runs its course — allow market demand to do its magic or if it will attempt to grease the palms of airlines with public dollars to “incentivize” more PIT flights.

The authority’s failed string of attempting to “command demand,” for lack of a better phrase, is long and inglorious. Attempting to “juice” that demand might lead to an uptick in flights. But, past being prologue, it surely will lead to the flights being eliminated or airlines leaving PIT when that juice runs dry.

News reports talk of a revived attempt by state legislators in Allegheny and Philadelphia counties to force Amazon and other online retailers to also pay those respective counties’ piggyback sales taxes on all purchases.

Should such legislation have any legs – and it might, given how the pandemic has severely reduced tax receipts — consumers in those counties would pay the additional 1 percent sales tax in Allegheny County and an additional 2 percent  sales tax in Philadelphia on top of the statewide 6 percent sales tax.

By prior legislative act, online retailers were required to pay only the statewide 6 percent impost.

Backers argue that their respective counties are losing out on millions of dollars in annual tax revenues.

But considering the more you tax something, the less you get of it, one can only wonder if the sponsoring legislators should be careful what they wish for.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).