In a measure of its desperation, the State Republican Party is currently using attack ads in an effort to tar State Representative and State Senate candidate Matt Smith for “raising our taxes”, apparently single-handedly, if the spot is to be believed.
No specifics are provided, but when one digs deep into the charge, it becomes evident that Smith is being blamed for supporting enabling legislation which spawned the much-despised Allegheny County alcoholic beverage tax, now 7 percent.
Let us recall the origin of the tax. The county has an obligation to provide funding to Port Authority of Allegheny County. At a time of a shortfall in available monies for that purpose, there were two viable options, neither of which were desirable: increase the property tax or impose an alcoholic beverage tax if the Legislature would permit it. The legislation to enable the imposition of a tax on alcohol passed with Matt Smith’s vote and then-County Executive Dan Onorato chose to impose this “sin tax” on a product which is a luxury. He, too, was unfairly excoriated for it, widely ridiculed as, “Dan, Dan, The Tax Man.” Executive Onorato did the right thing. I do not enjoy paying a 7 percent on the occasional cocktail or glass of beer that I enjoy when dining out, but I am willing to do it to avoid a hike in the already-onerous property tax burden.
Can one imagine how virulently the State GOP would be scoring Matt Smith if he could be held responsible for an increase in the property tax?
Has Allegheny County overspent? Certainly. Has Port Authority overspent? Most definitely. Prior overspending, though, cannot now be recouped. Regrettably, those who paved the way to today’s deficits through promising what could not be delivered cannot be held accountable. The mass transit system had to continue operating and the county was obligated to subsidize it. I would prefer a tax on alcohol over an increased tax on a necessity, the roof that every area resident must have over their heads.
The alcoholic beverage tax was the lesser of evils. Would the State Republican Party have had Matt Smith vote ‘no’ on the legislation, thereby assuring a property tax increase, or should public transit have been allowed to collapse?