Taxpayers should be on guard

Taxpayers should be on guard

You can’t help but see shades of 1997’s Regional Renaissance Partnership (RRP) in word that the 10-county Pittsburgh region will, as the Pittsburgh Business Times reported, “be pursuing a joint bid to host Amazon’s HQ2, the second headquarters campus for the Seattle e-commerce giant.”

 

It was the RRP that two decades ago foisted the Regional Renaissance Initiative on 11 Southwestern Pennsylvania counties – a ballot measure that sought to tax the region to prosperity with a new sales tax, one that primarily would have been used to construct new sports stadiums in Pittsburgh.

 

That measure was shut out by voters. Nonetheless, political machinations were used to raid the Regional Asset District tax to build PNC Park and Heinz Field.

 

Now, nobody’s talking about a new tax to come up with what could be as much as $1 billion in “incentives” to lure Amazon to Pittsburgh. But talk of, as the Times again reports, “coordinating with regional partners in all 10 Southwestern Pennsylvania counties” – with few details being made public – should put taxpayers on guard for any kind of “one for all and all for one” effort to spread the pain of the kind of corporate wealthfare Amazon seeks and to which governments all too often succumb.

 

A number of graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh are imploring the school to be “neutral” regarding their efforts to unionize.

 

That’s daft.

 

Grad students tell the Post-Gazette they’re upset that Pitt has circulated a letter urging them to weigh the pros and cons of organizing, especially, as Pitt put it, the “unique relationship graduate students have with their faculty” and the institution.

 

Egads, a university asks its graduate students to – GULP – use their brains and those students’ feelings are hurt? Oh, the humanity!

 

Considering the amount of public money that runs through Pitt, it has a responsibility to taxpayers to state for the record its position and to make the most of the public’s continuing largess.

 

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is proposing a public-private partnership to create a seed fund to underwrite entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

 

Here’s a better idea: Leave such financing to private venture capitalists and use precious taxpayer resources for their intended purposes. It’s not as if Pittsburgh doesn’t have pressing infrastructure needs that, well provided, serve as a solid foundation in attracting entrepreneurs/start-ups.

 

No prospective business will tolerate a water/sewer system on the verge of collapse, underfunded public pension plans that could bankrupt city government or a public school system that appears to systemically defy reform.

 

An astute aviation consultant offers, in the P-G, an interesting perspective counter to the rah-rah-sis-boom-bah-ing that has surrounded a proposal to spend $1.1 billion to upgrade Pittsburgh International Airport.

 

“You’re going to spend $1.1 billion to save $23 million?” asks Blair Pomeroy, an aviation strategy consultant. “What Wall Street person would ever make that decision?”

 

And all that at a time when the debt of the 25-year-old airport complex, built at a cost in excess of $1 billion, still hasn’t been paid off.

 

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