Photo: Rendell instructs Ravenstahl in the fine art of splitting hairs.
Did I Slip Into A Parallel Universe Or Something?
On Tuesday, Gov. Ed Rendell “popped in” to Marty Griffin’s morning talk show on KDKA and dropped a virtual bomb shell. Rendell calmly and matter-of-factly stated Philadelphia has “selective enforcement” of their drink tax. (Like, doesn’t everybody operate this way?)
Now investigative reporters such as Marty spend their whole lives perfecting and honing their craft. Each reporter probably has a different method for wringing what they want out of people. Getting people to trip up, spill the beans, inadvertently say that one stupid word they wish they could just suck back into their mouths. So just imagine Marty’s dumbfound condition as Rendell coolly plops a public admission in his lap that Philadelphia illegally enforces their drink tax. (Like, doesn’t everybody operate this way?)
Not trusting his own ears, Griffin asked Rendell to elaborate and Fast Eddie was quick to comply. Rendell explained there was something in the Pennsylvania constitution called the “uniformity clause.” As it applies to taxes, this clause basically says that for a tax to be legal, it must be applied uniformly. Rendell lamented that when Chicago enacted their drink tax, they only applied it to those bars and restaurants along the (Downtown) Loop. Rendell and Philly would have preferred to do the same, but unlike Chicago, our constitution’s uniformity clause mandates that everyone must be taxed equally, fairly and “uniformly”. (Bummer)
So to get around things and to continue doing whatever they damn well pleased, our pesky state constitution not withstanding, clever Rendell/Philly decided they would “selectively enforce” their “uniform” tax. They would check up, audit and hound the establishments they wanted to hammer. Whereas they would just “look the other way” (a Rendell quote) with the taverns they wanted to cut some slack. (Possibly the ones who were campaign contributers? Friends? Relatives?) They reasoned they had done their constitutional duty by *placing* a “uniform” tax on the books. Collecting the tax was another matter, however. One they reasoned was not regulated by the uniformity clause. (Like, doesn’t everybody operate this way?)
So I’m dumbfounded. I can’t believe my ears. Talk radio has been non-stop all over this for the past two days. The Rendell interview has been blasted from one end of the state to the other. Calls are being made for an investigation by the Attorney General. Lawyers for the Restaurant Association (Philly and Pgh) are in hyper-mode. Dan Onorato was hunted down for his reaction, interrupting his Excellent European Vacation, as it’s now quite clear to all this tax is DOA in Allegheny County. Leaving Dan holding the bag without a pot to piss in. Quite clear that Rendell has just blown Dan’s ass clear out of the water for who-knows-what reason. There’s even speculation that Philly’s drink tax will now spontaneously combust under the weight of all the lawsuits yet to be filed.
But…… Not a word in the print press. Not a syllable on the evening news.
Have I slipped into a parallel universe or something?