Bridges to Nowhere
- Published: Wednesday, 06 April 2011 11:02
- Written by Mark Kuhar
April 1, 2011 – With the anniversary of the Big Branch mining disaster fast approaching, MSHA chief Joseph Main told senators during a congressional hearing that Congress should approve new, tighter regulatory powers for the agency. “Legislation is still needed to fully protect our nation’s miners,” Main told the committee. “This committee has never subscribed to the myth that mining fatalities are an inevitable aspect of the business. I am asking you to again stand up for miners and pass new and needed mine safety legislation.” Specifically, Main said his agency needs improvements to the “Pattern of Violations” program for problematic mines; authority for the Labor Department to act more quickly to shut down dangerous mines through injunctions; updated and strengthened criminal penalties under the federal mine act; and stronger protection for whistleblowers. My guess is, despite Main's best intentions, his request will fall on deaf ears. MSHA's detractors note that it is not sufficiently using the regulatory powers it has, and wasting its resources at mines where the "safety violations" consist of writing citations for "unflushed toilets and trash can lids that are ajar."
March 30, 2011 – Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois isn’t making many friends in the business community these days. Companies in that state now have to pay a 7 percent corporate tax rate for the next four years, up from the previous 4.8 percent. And Illinois businesses are already subject to a 2.5 percent surcharge. Caterpillar Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman reportedly told Quinn in a March 21 letter that at least four other states had approached the company about relocating since the tax passed. Would Caterpillar really consider moving? Don’t rule it out. After all, they have switched states before, starting out in California before ending up in Illinois. The Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers is also up in arms over the Governor’s proposed FY 2012 transportation budget. An extremely troubling part of thisproposal is the planned diversion of $85.5 million from the Road Fund to pay operating subsidies for transit and rail (which have traditionally and appropriately been paid from General Revenue Funds). Although the impact ofthis new diversion may appear small when compared to Illinois’ multi-billion-dollar budget problems, the association’s position on this issue is clear: this new Road Fund diversion would have an extremely negative impact on the state’s multi-year road program. Stay tuned for more on the budget battles unfolding in Illinois.