Monday, June 27, 2011

Prioritizing Promises

Some things happen so consistently you can set the clock by them: the sun rises in the east every morning, there are fireworks on the 4th of July, and during the last week of June the Capitol is filled with lobbyists, lawmakers and camera crews.

This June 30 the average Pennsylvanian will be forced to determine how to come up with more tuition money, how to care for grandma now that her services in the nursing home have been cut, and how to afford their increased property tax bill.

I've heard a lot of Republican promises from the governor and his band of loyal legislators in the first 6 months of this legislative session, and for many no promise was more prominent than an the budget process would run like the trains in Mussolini's empire.

With overwhelming majorities in both chambers and a budget surplus that exceeds anyone's wildest expectations or hopes. What's the hold up?

The GOP's far right contingent found time to advance its conservative agenda: limiting abortion, strengthening firearms laws and limiting victims' rights. The House GOP even found time to approve a voter suppression bill.

But how do GOP leaders determine which promises to keep and which can be brushed aside?

The governor made plenty of high-profile promises beginning on the campaign trail.

On Day 1, we anticipated the governor's reform package ...because that when Gov. Corbett promised that he'd deliver it. We got a press release a week later saying he supported some things that others already planned to do.

Gov. Corbett also promised to shrink the number state fleet vehicles. Keep in mind, as Attorney General the number of state cars in his department actually grew by 12% from 445 to 499, while declining for other row offices.

One of his first and few press conferences involved auctioning off  Commonwealth One  (3/30/11 press release), and a commissioning a statewide review of the state’s vehicle fleet in an effort to reduce the cost of government. That's also about the time that 4 SUVs, totaling $186,000 that the governor had ordered, were delivered to Corbett, his top lieutenant and their wives.

Perhaps the most well known of the governor's promises was made last fall and has been repeated at pretty much every public event the governor has graced with his presence – No new or increased taxes. He and 34 state lawmakers took the Norquist Pledge. At a debate last October, Corbett made it more than clear that in addition to taxes he would "... not increase any fees. Not now. Not ever."

Last week Corbett drew Grover's admonishment over a plan to increase hospital assessment fees; but Norquist reneged and said as long as you lightened the load on someone else, the fee could be hiked for why doesn't that apply to a Marcellus Shale tax that would be used to lessen the burden on Pennsylvania taxpayers.

So what's a guv to do?

Supposedly the 26% of Pennsylvanians who voted for Corbett did so because of his NO tax stance (not his slash-and-burn education strategy, his collapsing of budget line items at tactic to hide where money is going, or the creation of his personal WAM account, the Liberty Loan Fund).

But now 70% of Pennsylvanians support requiring the out-of-state natural gas drillers to pay their share. So do you upset your base or 70% of Pennsylvanians?

Only time will tell, but one thing is clear (even to a guy who's been kept in the dark) even if a budget does pass on time and promises are kept, by and large the promises fail a majority of Pennsylvania.