Heads Up: Morning headlines for Jan. 17

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Read His Lips? Gov. Tom Corbett apparently plans to release a long-awaited transportation-funding plan next week, and it will rely on lifting the cap on the state's gasoline tax. Sounds eminently reasonable, but it arguably violates Corbett's "no new taxes" pledge -- which as dumb as it was is probably the only thing his party's conservative base still likes about the guy. The piece includes some jabber about how Corbett may try to ensure that gas distributors don't pass along the cost of the tax to drivers ... but that's the sort of things conservatives deride when Democrats propose it.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the wonders of privatization. Yes, according to KDKA-TV, several local governments who handed over their tax-collection operations to a private firm now say they never actually got the revenue. Apparently, the company was "overwhelmed" by the sheer volume of taxpayers who, um, paid their taxes. As a result, "[m]ore than $40 million in uncashed checks [are] gathering dust, many of which were so old they could no longer be cashed."

In other potentially disturbing news concerning public-private partnerships, the Tribune-Review is reporting that Pittsburgh police chief Nate Harper's connections to a security firm are the subject of a federal grand-jury investigation. That firm's owner, Arthur J. Bedway, has long attracted interest, as has his connections to Harper. But it's worth noting that the Trib story provides no source for its central claim, and indeed quotes no one speaking on or even off the record about it. So I guess we'll just have to see.

Tomorrow's public-private outrage today? The city just steps away from allowing companies to advertise on city assets -- potentially everything from parking benches to buildings and uniforms. Which reminds me of an idea I've heard elsewhere: Maybe in the future, city elected officials could wear the logos of their own corporate sponsors during public appearances -- just like NASCAR drivers. It might help clear some things up during the coming municipal elections.

As you read this brief piece about the perils of crashing through the debt ceiling -- and about the GOP's bogus effort to minimize the catastrophe that would cause -- try to remember two things. First, our very own Senator Pat Toomey is spearheading an effort to "prioritize" the government's financial obligations in case the GOP engineers a default. And second ... Toomey is supposed to be one of the smart ones.

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