Celebrate the holidays, but not the rapidly rising cost of living

Reports that Pennsylvania’s gasoline tax will rise by 8 cents in 2017 remind us of how the cost of living is far outpacing the growth of middle America’s income, and how the price of public services is, indeed, rising at a pace beyond what’s affordable to most.

Government has become so big … especially here in Pennsylvania.

The Jan. 1 increase will be about 8 cents per gallon, meaning motorists in the Keystone State will pay about 76 cents total per gallon in state and federal taxes. Sure, we want good roads, bridges and transportation services, but Pennsylvania has the undesirable No. 1 rank when it comes to the highest gas tax in America.

Oh … and that’s right, the Pennsylvania Legislature is one of the largest in the nation, with 203 House members and a 3,000-strong legislative work force. Studies put Pennsylvania’s legislative branch second in total spending behind California, second in per capita spending and second in spending as a percentage of general government operations.

Ohio, for example, has 90 percent of Pennsylvania’s population, but operates with only 52 percent of the state legislators. Even more populous states have smaller legislatures. New York and Texas both operate with 150 legislators, Florida has 120, and California, the most populous state, has only 90.

But it appears progress is being made. A bill that would amend the state’s Constitution would reduce the Pennsylvania Legislature’s size from 203 to 151 members. It has passed both the House and the Senate.

That means “The Pennsylvania Size of Legislature Reduction Amendment” will need to be approved one more time in each legislative chamber during the 2017-2018 legislative session to appear on the ballot on Nov. 6, 2018.

Mark that date.

Then there’s the rapidly rising cost of healthcare – can you say “out of control premiums and deductibles?” And let’s not forget the price of prescription drugs, higher education tuition and food in the grocery store.

It’s no wonder we see many Americans spending less on the holidays; reports this week say we increased our retail spending only slightly in November – just 0.1 percent – a possible sign of lackluster holiday shopping.

If you’re serving at any level of government, take heed.