One of the many points of distinction between my opponent, Brad Roae, and me is our attitude toward public investment. I believe that true public investment is an absolutely vital part of government, and that it is crucial toward our recovery as a region. Roae speaks often about, well, the opposite. We need to refuse to accept that austerity mentality and instead hear the word “investment” as just that: public dollars put to work to make all of our futures better.
I spoke at length about this in my September 14th Monday Morning sketch talk (see above). Some highlights:
- Public Investment includes our transportation infrastructure, our schools, our water pipes and telephone wires. It also could include public investment in much-needed rural broadband, which would be a game changer for our farmers, our students, and for people who might want to live around here and work remotely. Public investment definitely could include green development, like community solar, and green industry and manufacturing.
- Public Investment has 15% to 45% positive impact on private-sector productivity. Which means that wise investments of our tax dollars actually help private businesses do better. Plus, Public Investment in general has a higher rate of return than private capital investment.
- An example of the downsides of politicians who believe in a taxes are bad baseline, and who vote over and over again to refuse public spending (ahem…rhymes with the guy I’m running against), is a double-whammy fiscal cliff looming in July of 2021 for public transportation. Our own CATA — a $4.2 million organization that employs 80 people — faces significant hardship unless two issues change. One reallocates $450 million of Turnpike revenue earmarked for public transit into the Commonwealth general fund…which means that baseline of budget for transit would be up in the air. The other would privatize the brokering of point-to-point bus service (used most of all by our older neighbors for medical visits, and by our disabled neighbors), which in other states has led to considerably weaker, more-expensive service.
- Politicians who claim to be “against spending” or generally spew toxic mouth fumes about taxation are fine with spending money to bolster pet projects, for industries that provide them with massive campaign contributions (ahem…rhymes with…you know the rest). Case-in-point: $2 billion in public incentives to bolster the petrochemical industry, to make sure we remain shackled to our fossil fuels, in fact to create a bigger glut of plastic products that will fill our landfills and choke our environment. That is not public investment but, instead, the spending of public money to help out your rich buddies.
- Public Investment is about long term gain. The organization Reimagine Appalachia emphasizes that, no matter what a person feels about it, green development dollars will be spent, and probably soon. Regions that get on board, and get a seat at the table, will benefit from that investment. Regions stuck with politicians clinging to the past will see that investment go elsewhere, and we’ll be left with a few more lean years, then further collapse. Plus, since we are a region that has suffered in body and environment from the old energy economy — see: pollution, tainted water, higher cancer rates, black lung, generational poverty — we deserve more of the investment than other places.
- To accent the above: we need legislators who will actually fight for us, not just follow the demands of their political party leaders, who are always thinking more about the interests of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh than rural Pennsylvania. We need legislators who recognize the need to invest here, in us, and in our future.
November 3, one of the choices you’re making in the race for the State House in District 6 is between a candidate who believes in public investment, and one who does not. We’ve been left behind for too long. Time to change that.