Gov. Tom Wolf’s lat­est tax grab

The Phoenix - - OPINION - Low­man S. Henry Colum­nist

Penn­syl­va­nia mo­torists al­ready pay one of the high­est state gaso­line taxes in the na­tion thanks to what was ef­fec­tively a 30-cent per gal­lon tax hike dur­ing the Tom Cor­bett Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Now, a new multi-state com­pact ad­vo­cated by rad­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment in­ter­ests threat­ens to add to that tax bur­den.

As with most poli­cies pushed by the Left this one has a lofty sound­ing name, it is called the Trans­porta­tion and Cli­mate Ini­tia­tive.

If you cut through the spin what it ac­tu­ally is be­ing pro­posed is a tax grab to fund du­bi­ous “low car­bon tech­nolo­gies” which can­not com­pete in the mar­ket­place be­cause they are in­ef­fec­tive, overly ex­pen­sive or both; and — sur­prise — re-di­rect more money to ur­ban mass tran­sit sys­tems.

As In­con­ve­nient Facts au­thor Greg Wright­stone puts it: “They want to take money from Perry County (ru­ral Penn­syl­va­nia) and give it to Philadel­phia and Pitts­burgh.”

As Wright­stone ex­plained the com­pact on a re­cent edi­tion of Lin­coln Ra­dio Jour­nal the Wolf Ad­min­is­tra­tion has en­tered into an agree­ment with nine other mostly north­east­ern states to cap each of the states’ car­bon emis­sions from trans­porta­tion (your car).

The states have one year to come up with a plan. Such plans will most cer­tainly in­clude ad­di­tional taxes on gaso­line and diesel fuel.

Then, Wright­stone con­cluded, the money will be “re­dis­tributed” to “low car­bon trans­porta­tion sys­tems” — in other words ur­ban mass tran­sit.

Those ur­ban trans­porta­tion sys­tems, specif­i­cally the South­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity (SEPTA) in the Philadel­phia re­gion and Port Au­thor­ity Tran­sit (PAT) in the Pitts­burgh area have an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for pub­lic dol­lars and an­nu­ally de­velop new schemes to fleece tax­pay­ers from other re­gions to sub­si­dize the many and well doc­u­mented in­ef­fi­cien­cies and out­right cor­rup­tion that reg­u­larly plaque those agen­cies.

In ad­di­tion to the cost to con­sumers, higher taxes on gaso­line and diesel fuel will in­crease the cost of do­ing busi­ness for com­pa­nies based in Penn­syl­va­nia. This will put them at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage with states that are not part of this ide­o­log­i­cally driven com­pact.

No­tably, the state of Ohio de­clined to par­tic­i­pate in the boon­dog­gle, cor­rectly see­ing an op­por­tu­nity to gain a com­pet­i­tive edge over Penn­syl­va­ni­abased busi­nesses.

All of this raises the is­sue of how new and or higher taxes will be im­posed. Since this is an ad­min­is­tra­tive agree­ment it is en­tirely pos­si­ble, even likely, the Wolf Ad­min­is­tra­tion will at­tempt to by­pass the Gen­eral Assem­bly and im­pose the new cost as a reg­u­la­tory fee.

There are many rea­sons to be­lieve the gover­nor will try that route. First, with Repub­li­cans in con­trol of both houses of the Gen­eral Assem­bly the chances of win­ning leg­isla­tive ap­proval for a fuel tax in­crease, es­pe­cially in the House, are slim to none. Sec­ond, the Gen­eral Assem­bly has a re­cent his­tory of al­low­ing its con­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity to be usurped by other branches of gov­ern­ment with­out putting up an ef­fec­tive fight.

For ex­am­ple, last year the Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court in clear vi­o­la­tion of the state con­sti­tu­tion ab­ro­gated the leg­is­la­ture’s power to draw con­gres­sional dis­trict lines and in­sti­tuted by ju­di­cial fiat a new con­gres­sional dis­trict map ger­ry­man­dered to fa­vor Democrats in the 2018 elec­tion.

Leg­isla­tive Repub­li­cans howled in protest, even ap­pealed to the fed­eral courts.

But they failed to take the one ac­tion that would have been ef­fec­tive: im­peach the of­fend­ing jus­tices, es­pe­cially one who in a bla­tant breech of ju­di­cial ethics cam­paigned on do­ing ex­actly what was done.

So Gov. Wolf can be for­given if he be­lieves he can im­pose an en­tire new layer of tax­a­tion on We the Peo­ple of Penn’s Woods with­out the leg­is­la­ture tak­ing any ef­fec­tive ac­tion to stop him. But this is an is­sue where leg­isla­tive lead­ers, par­tic­u­larly those in the state Se­nate, need to stiffen their spines and take a stand.

The pol­icy goals of the Trans­porta­tion and Cli­mate Ini­tia­tive are du­bi­ous at best, this is a clear tax grab for ur­ban mass tran­sit, and con­sumers are al­ready over-bur­dened when it comes to gas and fuel taxes.

Even for the leg­isla­tive faint of heart this is a bat­tle worth fight­ing.

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