Mirabito complaint tour features a big-government agenda

State Rep. Rick Mirabito, a Williamsport Democrat who represents much of our region, has been on something of a complaint tour in recent weeks.

At open houses and public policy meetings, the representative has been advancing an agenda that includes, but is not limited to, the following:

The visitors bureau and Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce lack transparency and the state should have more control over how money from a local hotel tax is spent.

Privatization of the liquor system is a bad idea.

The gas drilling impact fee has had little or no impact locally and there should additionally be a severance tax on gas drilling companies.

And, since they are businesses, we should be very skeptical about how much in taxes they are paying and damage they are doing to the environment rather than paying attention to any economic benefit they might be bringing.

We hope the coverage on our news pages has been fair and accurate.

But this is the editorial page, where our opinion is allowed, and we disagree so completely with Rep. Mirabito’s stances that we hardly know where to start.

We’ll try the whole visitors bureau, hotel tax issue.

Cutting right to the chase, the representative is either not reading his mail or is knowingly deceiving his constituents. On April 19, Rep. Mirabito and citizens who had sent the chamber a petition regarding the visitors bureau were sent an exhaustively detailed letter from the chamber’s board chairman.

It detailed a four-year history of trying to communicate with the representative, the detailed process that goes into auditing visitors bureau finances, the regulations regarding the money and included answers to a number of questions that had been asked. For the sake of clarity, the letter to Mirabito is on Page A-5, minus the printing of attachments.

For the representative to refuse meetings with the chamber, not acknowledge the letter he received and then publicly accuse the organization of a lack of transparency is questionable.

At the heart of the agenda, we believe, is a distaste for the idea that the hotel tax money is controlled locally, with Lycoming County commissioner monitoring, rather than by the state. But wonder exactly why this philosophical difference has created such a seeming vendetta against the chamber.

Similarly, Mirabito wants a gas severance tax because that money would flow to state coffers in Harrisburg. While we believe the impact fee could be more heavily distributed locally, we also believe that trafficking the money with a local review and distribution process is best.

And to say the fee is “neither local nor impactful” just isn’t accurate, given the number of local projects listed with just the first round of impact fee funding. We want the revenue total and what it is used for to continue to rise, but it is having an impact.

As for privatization of liquor operations a reality in 48 states Rep. Mirabito’s state-control theme continues. He even suggested that newspapers have editorialized in favor of the proposal because they stand to gain advertising revenues from the privatizing of liquor operations.

We have editorialized for the privatization of liquor operations because the state never should have been in the liquor business to begin with. Forty-eight of 50 states get that.

We are not going to sit idly by while the representative infers that our support of a state proposal can be bought.

But lately, the representative seems pretty comfortable criticizing anything that flies in the face of his state government-control agenda. That agenda is a main reason the state is too heavily taxed and its economic vitality is stunted, even as it sits on the world’s most envied natural gas supply.

State government’s track record of the past few decades does not support an approach where we are supposed to be comfortable leaving everything to the big-government bureaucrats. That the representative consistently favors that approach is disappointing.

In an endorsement editorial of Mirabito for a second term, we expressed hope he would begin to distance himself from the big-government machine in favor of the local empowerment that the majority of his constituents embrace. His choice of which approach to favor is disheartening.