Among the decisions to be made by Pennsylvania voters on Election Day is a ballot question that would empower the commonwealth to borrow $400 million to finance improvements to our state's water and sewer infrastructure. Assuming the credit markets will allow the borrowing, the funds would then be made available to local municipalities in the form of grants to upgrade sewer and water systems.
Supporters of the bond question say a vote in favor of the initiative is a vote for clean water. Thus, anyone opposing further indebting taxpayers clearly favors polluted waterways and dirty disease-ridden drinking water. This despite the fact, as the Commonwealth Foundation points out, that the General Assembly has already approved $3 billion in new borrowing this year — without asking our permission. So, what is the problem with an additional $400 million?
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is having problems paying for core government services. It would seem maintaining and improving our sewer and water systems would be a top budget priority, as would be maintenance of our highways, roads and bridges. All of said infrastructure has fallen into an advanced state of disrepair even though, until recent months, the state treasury has racked in records amounts of tax revenue.
This raises the question: What exactly is state government spending our money on that funding is not available to maintain and improve basic services?
The answer: Porno films. Or, at least raunchy films about making porno films.
While sewage pollutes our rivers and streams and our highways fill with potholes your state government has invested millions in the so-called &quot;film industry,&quot; including a $5.7 million tax credit for a film aptly titled Zack and Miri Make a Porno. As the title would suggest, in the film Zack and Miri do in fact &quot;make a porno,&quot; and fall in love with each other along the way. Not exactly the mating ritual of most Pennsylvanians, but apparently something worthy of subsidizing with our tax dollars.
An article posted on Movies On-Lin describes the film: &quot;What happens when two best friends up to their eyeballs in debt decide to have sex on camera for money? Lifelong friends and roommates Zach and Miri are facing hard times and a mountain of debt. When the electricity and plumbing get cut off, they seize upon the idea of making a homegrown porno movie for some quick cash, enlisting the help of their friends.&quot;
Hey, what are friends for?
The review concludes: &quot;Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a feast of dirty talk, raunchy scenes with real love and caring amongst the characters, cooked up by the originator of the genre — Kevin Smith. Here's what he had to tell us about his new film (and) appealing an NC17 rating.&quot;
Well, at least there is &quot;real love amongst the characters.&quot; And, as a further redeeming factor a group of unemployed actors in Pittsburgh did find paying jobs acting in the film. There is the little matter of the propriety of our tax dollars going to pay actors to have sex on camera, but this is apparently a far greater use of state funds than say sewer lines.
State funding for Zack and Miri Make a Porno is only the tip of the film subsidy iceberg. A &quot;film tax credit&quot; was also given to the mass-suicide film The Happening. Governor Rendell has also advocated such tax credits on behalf of Lionsgate, a company which gave us such classics as House of 10,000 Corpses and Devil's Rejects.
Meanwhile, back at the state treasury, funds apparently are still lacking to fix those bridges. Oh, and if you want to watch Zack and Miri make a porno, you will have to pony up $7.50 at the theatre as there are no &quot;investor&quot; discounts. Nor are you likely to be invited to this weekend's red carpet debut.
So, when you go to the polls on Tuesday, and you are faced with placing an additional $400 million in debt on your children and grand-children, think of your tax dollars going to subsidize soft core porn and ask yourself if you haven't already invested enough in sewers.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is email@example.com.)