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.
According to a Tribune Review report this morning (December 17), a rally organized to encourage state legislators to provide more money to the Port Authority drew about 50 to the Mellon Square event. 50 people? What? Couldn’t organizers rouse enough off duty PAT workers, other labor demonstrators and social activists to boost the crowd number?
One can understand the lack of PAT worker participation. They won the latest skirmish over funding with the SPC capitulating to the Governor’s scheme to shift money to PAT-unless the federal government disallows the shifting of money intended for capital projects in the state to PAT’s operating budget or Congress neglects to include the money in upcoming appropriations. The workers are now confident they will not be laid off in drastic numbers and will not be asked to make concessions. So why bother with rallying when it involves going into town on a cold, wintry day?
The well-intentioned organizers should have learned something from the small attendance at the rally. To wit: most people do not want their taxes raised to create a dedicated source of revenue for PAT. That ship sailed years ago when the County adopted a local one percent sales tax to fund regional assets. PAT was not on the list of eligible assets.
Besides, most informed citizens know by now that any increase in revenue to PAT will only strengthen the resolve of the unions not to make compensation or work rule concessions at the next round of contract bargaining. Per rider costs will not come down and eventually more routes will be trimmed or eliminated despite more money from a dedicated revenue stream. It’s Parkinson’s Law for money in union dominated entities. Spending will rise to meet and exceed all available revenue.
In other words, informed citizens have seen how this game is played and are tired of it. PAT’s irresponsible financial behavior over the years has convinced many in the legislature and a large portion of the population that the transit agency is a money pit and requires dramatic remedial action from the Legislature to repair its out of control costs-not more tax dollars.
How pathetic. The only thing the parade led by a PAT bus accomplished was to snarl Downtown traffic. Inquiring minds are probably wondering if things are so tight at PAT how is it able to assign a bus and driver to lead a parade of protesters? How much did that cost? Did the driver work without pay? Doubtful. Did the protesters pay for the fuel? And just think of the carbon footprint of this motorcade. Mon Dieu!