A Big Year for PAT

Tomorrow is the first day of the 2011-12 fiscal year for the Commonwealth, virtually all of the state’s school districts, and for special purpose agencies like the Port Authority. The operating budget for PAT is $322 million, with a gap between revenue and expenses covered by the final piece of the flex money Governor Rendell found and was approved by SPC as well as budgetary reserves. The employee headcount for PAT is 2,495, which is unchanged from the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Obviously PAT is waiting with anticipation for the results of the Governor’s transportation task force, which is to deliver its recommendations on how to fund all of the state’s transportation needs in a month. Already increases in registration and licensing fees have been floated as a real possibility, but it is unclear if the revenues from those sources will be tied to a particular use. PAT’s budget presentation opines that "unless statewide transportation funding crisis resolved satisfactorily over the next 14 months, massive unfunded deficits will be projected in FY13".

Unfortunately as we have pointed out on many occasions there are numerous cost-side drivers behind PAT’s funding problems. First and foremost is the cost of labor, which is front and center in the next year as the authority is entering the final year of its four-year contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union. This year workers get a 3% raise (non union workers’ wages are frozen), and there is projected to be a jump in pension contributions from PAT ($20 million to $33 million) and healthcare expense for active and retirees are still around $70 million. It is also important to look at the ratio of retirees to actives at the agency: in 2002 there was 0.71 retirees to every 1 active; now there are 1.13 retirees to every 1 active. If PAT and, by extension, County officials, feel the 2008 contract did "good" things then the 2012 contract is going to have to be even "better".

And last, but certainly not least, let us not forget that spring of 2012 will mark the commencement of service via the North Shore Connector. If the timeline holds as well as cost projections did, look for the first trips to occur well after the anticipated launch of service.

Onorato Hammers Corbett’s Support of Obamacare Lawsuit

Commenting on Attorney General Corbett’s joining the lawsuit by twelve other AGs from around the country aimed at having Obamacare declared unconstitutional, Allegheny County’s Chief Executive called the move "a taxpayer-funded political stunt with the goal of denying more people coverage and making affordable health care less accessible."

How utterly ironic. This from the Executive who: spent years thwarting rulings handed down by a local judge and the Supreme Court requiring the county to reassess properties, standing down only after facing a possible contempt citation; signed an illegal smoking ban bill into law only to have it thrown out by the courts; tried illegally to take money from the liquor tax for purposes forbidden by law-another action overturned by the courts; sponsored an illegal referendum question; surreptitiously grabbed gaming money late on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve that was intended to help the airport lower its costs to carriers, etc.

Almost all of these actions have resulted in the expenditure of taxpayer funds, especially for legal costs for those involving the courts. And what could be more political than holding up needed corrections to errors in assessments simply to improve his political standing?

And one might want to know who will get the bill for the "affordable health care insurance" that will now be available to virtually everyone under the recently passed health care bill?