Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sounds good to me


Their colleague Bracken Burns suggests that they're pandering, but I find it hard to criticize a proposal made by Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi and supported by Commissioner Diana Irey to use the county's local share of money generated by the casino at The Meadows for tax relief. Maggi and Irey suggest using the slots money to cut county taxes on property owners by 47 percent. It's hard to see where that's a bad thing. Instead of giving millions to big projects directed by the county redevelopment authority, why not put some money in the pockets of people all over the county? State lawmakers, after criticism of the way the first millions were divvied up earlier this year, have their own plan for revamping the system, which they detailed at a meeting Tuesday. Their proposal, called the Hometown Project Fund, would dole out the slots money to every municipality in the county, based on population. The lawmakers also want to remove the apparent conflict of interest from the process. "Based on the large role they play both as an applicant and in an administrative capacity, we strongly recommend that the Washington County Redevelopment Authority no longer be represented on the local share review panel in determining which applicants are to be funded." Burns likes none of this. He's all for the status quo and accused those who want to make changes of "outpandering each other." He also offered this smug comment: "What about a check for $1 million to every voter in Washington County? If you can't pick up the sarcasm, then I could spell it out for you." He added, "We took the professionals in the economic development community, and we put them around a table and said, 'Do your job.' Except for criticism from the news media, I think we did a pretty good job." I'll pause here so Mr. Burns can give himself another well-deserved pat on the back. His suggestion that only the news media complained about the process is ridiculous. Helen Keller could've heard people bitching about the way the money was distributed. Both the lawmakers' and Maggi's proposals seem to be more equitable than the fox-guarding-the-henhouse status quo, but I don't think you can ever go wrong by getting money directly into the hands of the people. Folks are struggling right now, trying to keep their homes as they deal with high prices for gasoline, groceries and other necessities. They could use the help that Maggi's tax-relief plan would provide. The commissioner calls his proposal "an economic stimulus program for Washington County." I agree. The whole benefit of legalized gambling in Pennsylvania was supposed to be help for property owners. And, as Maggi told the lawmakers at Tuesday's meeting, "The Legislature has been promising tax relief for years and not delivering." So, why not do it on the local level?

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20 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bracken Burns has lost touch with his constituents. It is time for him to go. I would think that Diana Irey getting more votes than he did last election would serve as a wake - up call. I guess not. Its time for Bracken to go.

August 13, 2008 at 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Burns is simply arrogant and full of himself. But the legislative proposal is more about rewarding who gets the money. Yes the local government bodies will get money, but that will just increase spending. In addition, the problem of "grease" money will continue, there will be winners and losers. White and Levadansky don't want to give up control. It is time we take it from them.

August 14, 2008 at 12:31 AM  
Blogger Roger said...

The handling of money seems to bring out the worst in people, whether it be personal finances, or funds in the public trust. I was astonished at the process of distribution of funds during the last session. Some of those registered as applicants, were the same folks sitting on the other side of the table. When questioned, the reply went something like, "... we are professionals, and we are honest." They wanted nobody questioning their integrity in making the decisions on how the money was distributed.

Having the money is like a gift. When slippery hands gets into the pot, the outcome can be nothing good. It became a political ploy on where the money was to go, a good scheme at paybacks and pandering. Of course, it was all "above the board." Sure,...

The procedures need to be changed to eliminate a perception of potential trouble. There should be no trouble finding people to staff a board to review the applications, and make decisions, all apart from any politicians.

Clearly, Irey and Maggi are following, at least in part, the public's view of the casino money. Property owners were sold a "poke and pig" with Gov. Rendell and cronies. The major benefit of the slots approval was property tax relief. What relief has been passed along to property owners? None. This is the time to get the long promised relief, at least some of it.

After selling the idea of property tax relief, a funny thing happened on the way to final passage -- other fingers were stuck into the pot. NEVER was the plan to fund new buildings, such as a new arena. But, somehow, such high profile public projects found their way to the top of the priority list. Some of the publicity was on display today with the ground breaking, "... look at what we are doing with the money you were promised as tax relief, ... yea, yea, ...."

As a side note, all the officials associated with the new arena building keep saying, "... all financing is in place." They don't want the arena to end in the debacle of the Majestic Star. However, supposedly, some of the financing was to come from slots revenue. Now that the casino is well behind schedule, how is the money still going to be available for the new arena?

As a further digression, who will challenge the legality of the casino license transfer from Barden to Bluhm? Since the procedures were established to not allow such a transfer to happen, why was it allowed to proceed? Surely, this will end in the courts, right?

Now, back to Irey and Maggi's plan, ... keep the pressure going to get some of that money back to property tax relief. Take it out of hands that are too prone to put into pet projects that will enable them to get reelected.

August 14, 2008 at 9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is why you have to love Larry Maggi. He doesn't mind poking the legislature in the eye once in a while. He realizes the chances of a property tax cut of more than $8.27 a person is a fantasy, so make them choke on their cheerios in the morning by suggesting the money be used to lower the county property tax.

Bet they weren't expecting that story making the papers.

What gauls the state legislature is that they can't think of a legitimate way to get their hands on the slots proceeds. Just think how many bonuses can be handed out and, ahem, state employees who are past beauty queens, can be had with that type of dough.

If our wonderful Govenor ever told a truth about this property tax break, his tongue would fall out of his mouth and go dancing down the street. And people might finally understand the lies they told to get those casinos built.

August 15, 2008 at 6:59 PM  
Blogger Dale Lolley said...

That's why I laugh every time I hear Rendell's name mentioned as a possible running mate this fall. They always say "popular Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell." I guess they assume he's popular because he won re-election by a landslide. It had nothing to do with the Republicans running a tomato can against him.

August 15, 2008 at 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesse White's challenger sent out a press release on Friday supporting the Commissioners plan. He has also ran ads previously calling for the local share to go to tax relief. The question is whether anyone will run a challenger's press release in Washington County?
Not blaming Brant, who is incredibly fairminded....

August 16, 2008 at 12:07 AM  
Blogger Roger said...

Dale, the disconcerting part about the "popular" Rendell is that his taxing policies run hand-in-hand with his popularity. To be sure, the challenge in the last election was weak, but still he remains very popular. Does this say popularity breeds more taxes? Or, does this say that more taxes breeds popularity? Or, one more choice -- handing out cardboard checks breeds popularity?

Having said that, a possible successor in the person of Dan Onorato fits the same mold. He seems to be taxing himself to popularity as well. Tax and spend --> strategy for popularity.

What's with the folks in PA?

August 16, 2008 at 7:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm all for bashing the legislature, but I actually agree with them here.

First, I did get property tax relief this year from slots money, and so did everyone else whether you want to admit it or not. It said so right on my bill.

Second, there is a big difference between telling people that you are going to cut their taxes 47% and telling them that the 47% works out to about $60 per person. Personally, I'd rather see my township get some money every year to do things like build parks for my kids and buy fire trucks that may one day save my life, which means they will NOT have to raise my local school taxes.

Burns is an idiot, but I thought it was in poor taste for Maggi and Irey to come out blasting the legislators after they had the nerve to stand up to them and suggest improvements to their process.

This is one time where the legislators weren't entirely wrong.

August 16, 2008 at 8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$60 per person comes to $180 for the average family. Great savings for many families. Also since it is NOT PER CAPITA, that it is per home owner. Home owners, the majority of voters, win for once.
BTW how does the township getting money making my SCHOOL taxes not go up?
Guess that is the "if we build a better community they will come" approach?
Better approach, don't tax us to death and let the economy grow instead.

August 16, 2008 at 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out Jesse "I love your money" White's blog http://jessewhite.wordpress.com/
Everyone that wants the money for tax relief is "intellectually dishonest". Has anyone noticed that White's excuse is the law doesn't allow it? Can't a legislator push to change the law? Isn't that point of sending him to Harrisburg? Didn't he state that he would follow the Commissioners lead on the money? Guess he didn't plan on them actually pushing to give it back to us.

August 20, 2008 at 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read Mr. White's post. He was saying that it's intellectually dishonest to allow the County Commissioners to shift the debate away from the bad job they did last year instead of talking about ways to fix a broken system, which is what was proposed.

The Jesse White bashing is getting ridiculous on this site, especially since he is the only State Rep. we have who actually is trying to get things done.

I really hope that this isn't just his political opponent running a smear campaign against Mr. White, but it looks like that's what we're seeing.

August 20, 2008 at 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

White is on the board. White receives sewage to his home. White according to his own blog uses casino money to benefit the project to his own home.
Maybe Mr. White's reason for more money to "economic development" needs to be examined.
Check out the O-R poll on the question of the local share. I guess the 80%+ is just White's opponents. Or maybe they all are intellectually dishonest? Maybe anyone that asks questions about White is wrong?

August 20, 2008 at 11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't know what you're talking about. You are WRONG.

I live in the Millers Run area of Cecil, and I know Jesse White. We did NOT- I repeat, did NOT- get ANY sort of discount on our sewage tap in from the slots money.

The municipal authority got about $250,000 for another expansion project that did not have anything to do with where we live.

Jesse worked like crazy to hold grant workshops for low income families and senior citizens to help people with their tap fee, and he has been all over the Township and the Municipal Authority to find out why the project was so expensive.

You are just wrong. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG.

We think Jesse has been doing a fine job, and I am not going to sit here and let you say things about him that are just WRONG.

August 21, 2008 at 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also worked to direct $275,000 of local share gaming funds to the Cecil Township Municipal Authority to help reduce about $3 million of debt service that otherwise would have to be paid by the users.

I am myself a Cecil Township resident, and my home is one of those included in the Millers Run sewerage plan.



State Rep. Jesse White

What does that sound like?

Remember money is fungible and one discount leads to another. White seems to understand this...

August 21, 2008 at 9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you nailed this one. The above quote about the $275,000 was taken directly from Jesse White's blog.

August 21, 2008 at 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lowering future debt service for a region and putting money into someone's pockets are two different things. The people in Cecil had to pay an insane tap of over $6200.

But I suppose that once again Cody Knotts and his pals aren't interested in the facts.

August 21, 2008 at 11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did White benefit from the money sent to Cecil? It appears according to HIS OWN statement that he did. This was not unusual for the board, but it does call into question his plan for the division of the assets. It is the typical crap that earmarks has brought us at the federal level, some areas get more than others, rather than equal distribution. The Commissioners have proposed a plan that benefits everyone equally. Jesse and his buddy Bracken Burns don't want that plan. It seems obvious as to why. White's own words and actions betray his goals and desires.

August 21, 2008 at 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Huh? I don't think you've been following what has been taking place.

Bracken Burns did NOT want White's plan. He wanted to keep everything in the hands of a few people. White's plan called for local governments (NOT STATE REPRESENTATIVES AND COUNTY COMMISSIONERS) to decide where large portions of the money goes.

Good Lord.

August 21, 2008 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I think if you're looking for the politician who finishes dead last in this debate, it's Burns. Maggi and Irey want to give the money directly to property owners in the form of tax relief, although that might not pass the legal test. The lawmakers, including Jesse White, envision a plan that would split the money more evenly among all the communities across the county. Burns is the one who wants to maintain the status quo, with a bunch of hand-picked people deciding which projects get the money. And some of those hand-picked people not only decide who gets the money; the entities they represent end up with chunks of the cash. Burns' response to anyone who questions this apparent fox-guarding-the-henhouse approach is to praise the money-divvyers' professionalism and chastise the critics for having the gall to point out the obvious conflicts of interest.

August 21, 2008 at 1:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely agreed that Burns is worse, but the current plan of dividing between certain projects will end up be VERY similar in actual implementation to the current system. Who determines where the other money goes? One vote per municipality? Also another consideration is the fact that Maggi plan is superior to the White plan, everyone benefits under Maggi's plan, which was the essential part of your statement.
And the "legal test" of course can be changed, that is what legislator are for, changing the law, that is if it doesn't work, which there is NO proof that it would not. DCEED has said nothing.

August 21, 2008 at 2:28 PM  

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