The board of the Port Authority (PAT) will meet to decide how to spend the $45 million bailout recently approved by the Southwest Planning Commission (SPC). Will it succumb to demands by the union to spend it all over the next six months and thereby avoid significant service and job cuts? Or will it spread the money over the next 18 months as the SPC required as a condition to approving the fund transfer to PAT?
Normally, it would be reasonable to expect the board would honor the conditions imposed by the SPC. However, given the past behavior of the board and its unwillingness to deal forcefully with the union there is some question about what the board will do.
If the board accedes to union demands, it will be a slap in the face of the SPC members from outside Allegheny County who voted for the transfer of funds to PAT. But no one should feel any sympathy for those members. They made a huge mistake in voting for the transfer in the first place and accomplished two things, both unfortunate.
First, they granted a postponement of the day of reckoning for the Authority and the union to confront its runaway legacy cost problem and its very high labor cost and inefficiency issues. Second, the SPC’s action has further cemented the union’s conviction that state government will always provide bailout funding to reward the union’s intransigence.
The fact there is a discussion of an option to snub the SPC is a sure indication of the need for the state to take dramatic steps to correct PAT’s problems and to rein in the union’s power.