Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Sunday paper

Today's Trib includes a spot-on column by Jack Markowitz about state Act 72, which would allow school districts to give their residents property tax relief--funded by gambling revenues--if they raise their wage tax by 0.1 percent and agree to allow residents to vote on any tax increase above the rate of inflation.

Most districts have said thanks, no thanks, and Markowitz chides the governor and the General Assembly for the law's hypocrisy. Of referendums, Markowitz writes:

But referendums are good for local school boards.

Funny, they're not good for the governor and the Legislature. They don't need to consult the voters on tax increases. Or pay and pension increases. Or, indeed, on idiotically inviting the gambling interests to take a huge role in all future state politics. But apparently a local school board member really oversteps when hiking millages without consulting John and Mary Public.

Markowitz explains that many school boards, in addition to chafing at the referendum requirement (which would probably just ensure that districts hike taxes just enough every year to stay below the level needed to trigger the referendum), probably don't believe they will get enough revenue to offset the hike in the wage tax. And they may be right. Besides, Pennsylvania's true property tax problem stems from the disparity (see May 26 post) in wealth among the state's 501 school districts, a problem that no amount of gambling money is likely to solve.

In matters less temporal, Carl Prine turns in a touching tribute to military chaplains. It turns out that a disproportionate number of priests from the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh have served as chaplains, who, by the way, serve in forward units without the benefits of carrying arms.

Because they administer last rites, even for enemy bodies scattered around them, priests often expose themselves to sniper fire. A strong belief in living with the troops means unarmed men of peace risk the same gunshots, shrapnel wounds and imprisonment as the GIs whom they serve -- a life of sacrifice that's endeared them to the warriors they served.

"I wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for a chaplain," said Larry Donovan, 75, of Scott. "He kept me going when we thought there was no hope left."


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