Residents of Allegheny County, the Penn. county that contains Pittsburgh, are facing a quick and somewhat sneaky shot at imposing a 10% "poured drink" tax to fund public transit. What's really irksome about this is that it's coming from the State legislature, in the form of an "enabling bill" that will allow the county to impose these taxes (there is also "enablement" for a real estate transfer tax (don't move to Pittsburgh, it'll cost ya!), and for a rental car tax: hey, why not soak tourists and visiting businessfolks all you can, throw in a big lodging tax, too!).
I am not against public transit. I'm not nuts about property taxes, either, which the politicians claim is the only alternative open to the county. But you know, I'll be dipped if I can see why the only choices for improvements to Pittsburgh's public transit system are either having the entire state pay for it -- as in, what the hell benefit do I get from improvements to Pittsburgh's public transit system -- or shoving the burden onto Pittsburgh's drinkers. What, folks going to bars and restaurants are the only ones using public transit?
And don't be buffaloed by the bloviating of Allegheny County Council President Rich Fitzgerald, who said in the Post-Gazette that the tax may not even be enacted by the county, or that being against this bill was being against home rule for Allegheny County. That's ridiculous. If you're against unfair, booze-based taxation, you're against this bill. Why wait until it's in the hands of the county council, kill it now.
Like I always say about booze taxes: we pay enough now. If a government service is of benefit to the entire public -- and I think public transit is, if only because it gets cars off the road -- then the entire public should pay for it. Excise taxes are always a bad idea. Why not a bill to enable an extra 1% of sales tax for Allegheny County? Then everyone pays. This is a bad idea, an unfair idea. If you live in Pennsylvania -- anywhere in Pennsylvania -- do like I did and contact your state Senator and Representative today and let them know that you're for fair taxation, and that you're against the legislature represented by House Bill 1629.