Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Onorato: Port Authority Transit subsidy on hold - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Onorato: Port Authority Transit subsidy on hold - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: "Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato on Monday put in writing a pledge he made in July to cut mass transit costs."
So, let's get this straight.

New taxes. New taxes to raise millions. New tax is to fix transit. But, new taxes won't go to transit problems. So, the new taxes just take money out of the economy and sit in the government's treasury.

Some smells very bad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Onorato: Port Authority Transit subsidy on hold
By Jim Ritchie
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato on Monday put in writing a pledge he made in July to cut mass transit costs.

He issued an executive order preventing Port Authority of Allegheny County from receiving any money generated by two proposed taxes until the transit agency cuts labor costs to his satisfaction.

A labor agreement covering 2,200 drivers and mechanics expires June 30, and contract talks are expected to take place over the next several months. The county would continue to make payments to Port Authority through June 30 but halt subsequent payments if the transit agency fails to reach a contract agreement to Onorato's liking, he said.

"Obviously, we're not going to let Port Authority shut down," Onorato said. "We do have some time to negotiate a contract."

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County council members plan to vote next Tuesday on a budget and the two taxes -- a 10 percent levy on poured alcoholic drinks and a $2-per-vehicle surcharge on car rentals. Together, they would generate $27.7 million a year to benefit Port Authority.

If the county does not contribute that money, the state will not deliver its annual $184.4 million subsidy to Port Authority. Onorato proposes shifting the source of the authority's transit subsidy from property tax collections to money generated by the drink and car rental taxes.

Onorato's order sends a message to Port Authority and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, which represents the drivers and mechanics.

Local union President Pat McMahon said he does not want to comment on Onorato's order until he reviews it. Port Authority CEO Steve Bland was not available for comment.

Labor costs account for 75 percent of Port Authority's $325.1 million budget. Onorato's order does not specify what would constitute an acceptable labor contract. He said cuts enacted earlier this year for authority managers are a good benchmark. Those cuts included wage freezes, increased employee health care contributions and elimination of lifetime health care benefits.

County councilman John DeFazio, D-Shaler, said he would prefer a less confrontational approach when asked about Onorato's executive order.

"He has a right to say it, but I thought they were going to talk and work it out," DeFazio said. "Everybody's got to work together."

The authority and county want union members to accept cuts that would help the authority's chronically troubled budget. Union members vow to protect benefits they have fought to receive and say the authority is able to make other changes.

The authority, county and union have met several times to discuss contract issues without making much progress. The law requires them to begin negotiating 100 days before the contract expires. Another meeting was planned for this week.

Jim Ritchie can be reached at jritchie@tribweb.com or 412-320-7933.