Some weekend cud on which to chew

Some weekend cud on which to chew

Government, cajoled by animal rights activists, has killed the annual Shrine Circus in Pittsburgh.

Never mind that there’s no proof of actual abuses, Pittsburgh City Council last year passed a broad ordinance that, by nefarious design, would make it impossible for circus animal handlers to safely maintain control over those animals.

So, for the first time in 60 years, Pittsburgh’s Syria Shriners will not host a circus. And because of ignorant government, it now has to scramble to find a new way to raise money to help fund 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children, including two in Pennsylvania.

The actions of Pittsburgh City Council will cost the Shriners up to $200,000 that the annual circus raised. If alternate fund-raising methods cannot be found, children will suffer.

For-the-children “progressives” call this “sound public policy.” Thinking people call such intemperate “governance” what it is – idiotic.

The Tribune-Review reports that several members of the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf say there is a “groundswell” of support for a severance, or extraction, tax on shale natural gas.

Proceeds of the tax would support Wolf’s “Restore Pennsylvania” initiative, characterized previously herein as, given it has had prior iterations, the latest in a long line of proposed taxes looking for a use.

Never mind that the shale industry already pays an impact fee. And never mind that state government would use new tax receipts – estimated at $300 million annually – to pay off $4.5 billion in borrowed money over five years.

What could go wrong, right?

And in the hoot of all hoots, an administration official insists that any new severance tax, stacked on top of the impact fee which would be retained, does not amount to double-taxation.

Only a bureaucrat could make such a claim.

As the Trib reported, Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai has called the proposal what it is: a “4.5 billion, debt-financed slush fund to be allocated at the whim of a new government board and paid for by yet another job-killing tax on the natural gas production industry.”

With all due apologies to Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years,” what passes today for sound public policy, even reasonably educated people can’t understand.

Sometimes it’s the most innocuous things, buried in a news story, that further expose public policy makers for their erroneous ways.

To wit, the federal EPA Wednesday last granted Allegheny County a second temporary exemption, until July 1, from the summer-blend gasoline program.

But, supposedly, all the local and federal bureaucrats will have all their bureaucratic ducks in a bureaucratic row by the end of June that will permanently shelve the obsolete program.

Gasoline already costs more per gallon in Allegheny County than in surrounding counties – around 4 cents more – and 20 cents or more than in neighboring West Virginia and Ohio. (At one point this spring, gasoline could be had across state lines by as much as 45 cents a gallon cheaper).

If, for some continuing bureaucratic reason, the regulation isn’t scuttled and Allegheny County service stations are required to sell the summer-blend fuel, Allegheny County prices could, by one estimate, be 50 cents a gallon higher.

All that said, the EPA says it keeps granting reprieves not necessarily because of the bureaucratic slog but because of damage to the major pipeline used to deliver the summer blend.

But as part of the waiver, the Post-Gazette reports the government is allowing Allegheny County stations to, during the disruption, buy regular gasoline from Ohio and Altoona.

You may recall that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission recently denied a request from the owners of that very same pipeline – the Buckeye Laurel Pipeline – to allow it to carry into Western Pennsylvania cheaper gasoline from the Midwest, including Ohio.

It was a hardly veiled sop to East Coast refineries struggling to compete.

One can only wonder what the local gasoline marketplace would be like had the PUC not propped up one supplier — most likely at the expense of the consumer and, without question, at the expense of the free marketplace.

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