Saturday, August 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

PennDOT Wid

A tasty item in this week's Harrisburg newspaper says PennDOT is promoting Philly cheesesteak sources; your tax dollars at work.

PennDOT Wid

There's a tasty little item in this week's Harrisburg Patriot-News about how PennDOT publishes guides to some Philly cheesesteak restaurants that kinda makes one wonder about, you know, core functions of government.

The agency of highway cones, potholes and dilapidated bridges operating in an administration constantly criticized for failure to enact badly need transportation-related repairs offers a two-page "Philadelphia Cheese Steak Guide" for free at its welcome centers in the southeastern part of the state.

Agency officials swear the guide is not advertising despite the fact it lists only six of Lord know how many cheese steak places in the city.

The six are Campo’s Deli, Geno’s Steak, Jim’s Steaks, Pat’s King of Steaks, John’s Roast Pork and Tony Luke’s.

Owners of guide-listed restaurants must be thrilled. It's nice when your government pushes business your way. But owners of other cheese steak places must wonder what their government is doing for them.

The Patriot notes PennDOT's Office of Tourism Services oversees 14 welcome centers with 64 employees and a $3 million annual budget. It also prints guides to Pittsburgh shopping malls, dining in Mansfield and a shoe store in Sharon.

Thing is, the state also has a separate PA Tourism Office with a budget of $5 million, and, it seems to me, PennDOT could better spend its time and your money on roads and bridges than on publications offering directions to commercial enterprises.

Not a major scandal, I'll grant you. And when these things pop up the defense is always, oh, well, it doesn't cost much and is such a small part of the overall state budget.

Still. It raises questions about government spending priorities and principal functions at a time of cuts in social services and inaction on infrastructure. And it begs the question of what else are tax dollars are being used for that is duplicative, redundant or wholly unnecessary.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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