More notes on the state of things

More notes on the state of things

The hand-wringing only is intensifying in some Pennsylvania dairy circles as more milk retailers are cancelling their contracts with commonwealth milk producers.

One of the latest cancellations come from Dean Foods of Dallas. The Post-Gazette reports that, effective May 31, it will end milk contracts with more than 100 farms in eight states, 42 of which are here in the Keystone State.

A variety of reasons are cited, the most popular being that a new Walmart milk-processing facility near Fort Wayne, Ind., eliminated the need for a Dean Foods processing complex.

But a few salient facts get lost in such a blame game.

Not only has milk consumption in the United States been trending lower for years, too much milk continues to be produced.

And why might that be, class? Well, Pennsylvania, for one, controls the price of dairy products with price floors, guaranteeing producers a minimum price for their product.

While supporters argue such floors are necessary to guarantee producers the income needed to maintain their dairy herds and guarantee the availability of milk, it has the perverse – and wholly predictable – result of encouraging over-production, which only exacerbates the glut of milk.

Consider it another backfire from “beneficent” government.

The outrage over an eye-popping bonus for Allegheny Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis is growing.

She was awarded a $146,000 bonus for 2017 – on top of her base salary of $325,000 and other perks. That’s a 45 percent bonus.

But the real kicker here is that not only was there no public discussion or vote on the bonus, the authority’s board allowed its chairman alone to determine the size of the whopping payout.

As the P-G editorialized on Monday:

“If board members can’t be bothered to involve themselves in important matters like executive compensation, and be transparent with the public in the process, they should resign so their seats can be filled by those willing to do the work properly.”

An authority spokesman attempted to deflect from the board’s opaqueness by noting that neither Cassotis’ salary nor her bonus and other perks come from “taxpayer” dollars. But as this scrivener noted in a March 26 posting, the P-G reminds that because Cassotis is employed by a public authority, her remuneration is “public money.”

All that said, another authority rationalization does not hold water. That would be the argument that because the board delegated this matter to its chairman, there was no need for public discussion or a public vote.

A public authority. Doing the public’s business. With public money. That, by definition, is a public matter. Let the sunshine in.

Any other reading of the situation suggest the Allegheny County Airport Authority was trying to keep Cassotis’ massive bonus as under wraps as possible. But the authority’s transparency-mocking actions have come back to slap it. As should be the case. For sound public policy demands openness.

Edinboro University, one of Pennsylvania’s State System schools, is looking for its seventh president in 11 years. That, following the sudden resignation of H. Fred Walker.

Walker’s downfall appears to have followed his – GASP! – speaking truth to educratic dysfunction.

After all, he had the audacity to propose cuts to a bloated unionized faculty for a declining enrollment, a poor freshman retention rate and declining admission standards to match.

To the latter point, witness a 2014 acceptance rate above 99 percent.

Walker minced no words in attempting to right Edinboro’s listing ship and tack a new course. Faculty and students alike were said to be “offended.”

But what’s far more offensive is that those who have the temerity to attempt to do what they were hired for can be routed from their jobs for doing so.

An administrative law judge for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has recommended that PUC regulators deny a request by Laurel Pipe Line Co. to reverse the flow direction of the western part of a major fuel pipeline.

The company argues the reversal would allow for the transfer of cheaper Midwest fuels, gasoline included, to Western Pennsylvania. But Giant Eagle and Sheetz, among others, argue the reversal would limit choice in supply and stand to raise, not lower, fuels costs.

Said Judge Eranda Vero: “On balancing the utility’s loss with the hardship on the public, I find that the inconvenience and hardships that arise from the proposed reversal outweigh the loss experienced by Laurel.”

The full PUC can follow, modify or reject the judge’s finding.

But this ruling smacks of protectionism that is not supported by the economic facts. As an Allegheny Institute analysis concluded last summer (Policy Brief Vol. 17, No. 24):

“Allowing reversal of the Laurel Pipeline would in effect be forcing East Coast refineries to become more cost-competitive” — which would be a “good thing for everyone in the long run.”

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