Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Budgeting like a family?

Three weeks of budget hearings finished up last week -- an annual ritual where state agency chiefs, among others, testify before the legislature’s Appropriations committees saying yea or nay to the governor’s spending priorities.

It got kind of heated for a few testifiers this year.


A week after Attorney General Kathleen Kane rejected the Corbett administration’s rapid, secretive and unconstitutional plan to turn over the state’s thriving Lottery to British firm, Camelot LLC, Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser made his appearance before the House panel. He found himself battered with questions about the lottery plan. Namely, how much the high price consultants the Administration hired need to be paid.

See, even while the Corbett administration decides its next step (and the clock is quickly ticking toward the March 16 deadline), and even if the plan goes up in smoke, Corbett’s handpicked high price consultants still need to be paid -- like MILLIONS and MILLIONS of (taxpayer) dollars.

And before you say, well, come on, how much are we talking? Isn’t “millions and millions” kind of broad? Well that’s all the Administration has been able to report to Pennsylvanians.

When Meuser headed to a Senate hearing a week later – he still didn’t know how much cash we’re talking.  He knew it would be “substantial,” but less than $30 million. See where my broad generalization of MILLIONS and MILLIONs comes from?

In my opinion, and probably in a lot of people’s opinions, these multimillion dollar payments to Chicago’s Greenhill & Co. and Baltimore’s Piper LLP are a big deal, and the Administration should dedicate the necessary time to calculating them.

What I find so ironic about the Corbett administration’s inability to figure all of this out, is that on many occasions Gov. Corbett has compared Pennsylvania to the average family (albeit one that will cut to the bone and refuse to consider Jr. picking up a part time job after school) evoking images of a family around the dinner table looking at their finances.

But what family purchases a good or service without knowing the price? Is this the way Pennsylvania families budget? Hire a firm hundreds of miles away and worry about paying the bill later.

Please, if Gov. Corbett is going insist on using his tired analogy comparing Pennsylvania to the typical American family, he ought to at least provide his revenue chief with a calculator.