Who pays?

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

Gov. Ed Rendell has called a special session of the Legislature to deal with the $472 million hole that was blown in the state's transportation budget when the feds nixed tolling Interstate 80.

One idea has trickled out so far -- legalizing video poker machines, taxing them and directing the money to roads.

That type of plan is attractive because it doesn't require the Legislature to raise taxes or fees. We all know that citizens will not tolerate being required to actually pay for road and bridge improvements and especially public transit. That is why proposals like raising the gasoline tax -- which would generate the needed revenue, discourage unnecessary driving and promote fuel economy -- have no traction at the federal or state levels. Better that we lean more of our economic well-being on gambling or other gimmicks that keep legislators' derrieres well-covered.

The voters of Saint Louis County, Mo., showed this month that at least some taxpayers are willing to shell out for vital services. They overwhelmingly approved a half-cent sales tax increase to fund transit (and head off the sort of draconian service cuts that will visit our Port Authority if the Legislature doesn't get its act together.)

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