Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The confessions of a bus rider (4)

The bridges of Armstrong County or how to persuade your Republican representative to fund public transportation

After the most recent pre-election campaign I realized -like this was not common knowledge already, noted Nim - that Republicans do not like taxes. Or so they say… To be more precise, they oppose both taxation and centralization. So, to write a republican and ask them to establish a dedicated state fund for public transportation in Pennsylvania, because that would raise two issues he (or she) likes to oppose (or at best avoid discussion). One issue is revenue –more taxes, more fees? The other is redistribution of funds (who will get what) therefore centralization. So instead of asking for dedicated funding, what I'd like to ask them (the Republicans) is to reduce taxes. Yes, you read it well: Reduce Taxes. More specific: reduce state taxes. Give each county the ability to re-direct that potential revenue towards whatever that particular county needs more. And if you do look at the numbers, it may even make sense…

For example, when the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission had to vote recently on a new "band-aid" funding solution for the Port Authority of Allegheny County, 22 of the 49 commissioners present decided to oppose it. For example two out of the three Armstrong County commissioners present voted nay. So if it were up to Armstrong County the funding solution as pernicious and temporary as it was, it'd fail. But if you listen to their point, you cannot but nod in agreement. They too have roads and bridges in dire need for upgrades and repairs and when some extra money is available at state level, what does the state do? Patching public transportation budgets in Allegheny County.

It does not seem fair, does it? said Yuri

Well, to be fair, if one uses the 2000 Census numbers and a median 3.3% state tax (excludes unemployment contribution)applied to each median income to figure out each county's contribution to PA revenue from payroll (1) taxes only, it results that Allegheny County's contribution is about $651,783,921 and Armstrong County's is $25,563,236 (2). (And these numbers do not even consider all other contributions such as business taxes, tobacco & alcohol fees, sales taxes etc. ) So what if we wouldn't pay any state taxes from our incomes?
This means the Port Authority's budget shortfall is about 7.2% of what we pay in state taxes. And why we ask to pay less in state taxes, so we could pay more towards local projects without paying more taxes. Same for other taxes the county businesses do pay to
wards the state budget - instate of increasing them, just lower the percentage that goes to the state coffers so more can get to local projects. As for Armstrong county, they shall finance their bridge and road projects from their own residents revenues - after all it is only fair...

Or not? asked Anais -after all this is one state we all live in.

Yeah, but I ride the bus in Pittsburgh and I could not care less about the crumbling bridges of Armstrong County.(Annamari)

(1) adjusted gross earnings for individuals
(2) these are very rough estimates of the actual tax contributions that will make most accountants cringe. But they do reflect an actual ratio ... In Pennsylvania the
 counties in major urban metro area generate significantly more tax revenue than rural areas.

@lndaley  reports from Dec.13 SPC comission meeting
Census data for Allegheny and Armstrong Counties from :
respective : http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/42/42005lk.html

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