Should more government services be contracted out to private companies? Should the state lease or sell assets, like roads, bridges and liquor stores to private industry?
Good questions, but when Gov. Corbett introduced his privatization council last week, our question was: How does this state get stronger ethics laws?
Of the panel's 24 members, 17 have made campaign donations to Corbett. And several are executives from companies that could benefit from privatization.
The Governor's Office announced yesterday that council members will have to abstain from any decisions in which they have a financial interest. But that doesn't mean their businesses can't get contracts for outsourced government services; it just means they can't vote on who gets those contracts.
There's also no pay-to-play prohibition preventing campaign contributors from getting contracts, or limiting the circumstances under which they can get them.
It's hard to get too excited about the prospect of cost savings or improved services when we can't be sure all members of the privatization council have those interests at heart.
Another editorial bemoans the city's tax collections, and floats an idea...
Like the crazy weather episodes we've experienced in the last month or so, the economic weather for the state and the city is unpredictable and sometimes even traumatic. For example, after experiencing a budget reprieve in the form of higher than expected tax collections for much of the last nine months, the city is now warning that tax revenues are "anemic" and may be heading into a new round of cuts.
Blame unemployment, which in this double-dip recession is on the rise again, and therefore giving grief to both wage-tax and sales-tax collections. As reported on "It's our Money," City Budget Director Rebecca Rynhart says that in July and August, tax collections were more than $5 million below expectations. Sales-tax revenues were also down during those months.
And if this wasn't disturbing enough, a report from the state Gaming Control Board announced yesterday that slot-machine revenue is up more than 7 percent over the amount generated by the same time last year.
Hmm . . . higher rates of unemployment lead to lower revenues for the city, higher revenues for the casinos. That's a connection we don't like to contemplate.
Ten casinos around the state brought in more than $200 million, $14 million more than last year, which gave the state $108 million in revenues.
Time for slots in City Hall?