Monday, June 21, 2010

Under the Big Top

The circus is back in town in Harrisburg. What I mean by that is that your state lawmakers are back at "work" today, with the deadline for approving a state budget just a little over a week away. Are you optimistic that they'll get the job done? After last year, when the budget was approved 101 days after the deadline, one would think that the lawmakers, with the November election on their minds, would bend over backward to accomplish what they haven't done in many a year and actually do their jobs by the required date. But the last I saw, they're facing a budget hole of at least $1.3 billion, and it's going to take a lot of cutting and/or "revenue enhancement" to balance the spending plan. Revenue enhancement is what you and I call taxes. The lawmakers find that term distasteful. They have proven to be excellent at public relations and at honing self-promotion skills that already are second to none. They haven't done nearly as well in the area of making tough decisions, so it wouldn't be a surprise if they once again failed to do what is really the only job that is required of them every year. The other day, Gov. Ed Rendell prodded lawmakers to pledge that they will work every day from now until June 30 in order to pass a budget. His call brought this reply from Brett Marcy, spokesman for House Democrats: "We are committed to doing everything we possibly can to pass a budget by June 30. That is why we passed a budget and sent it to the Senate nearly three months ago." What Marcy isn't telling us is that the spending plan the Democratically-controlled House sent to the Republican-controlled Senate was an absolute joke, a total fraud. And anyone who says otherwise is a liar. There are a few things to watch over the coming days as our "leaders" go about their business. One, will the lawmakers do the right thing and tax chewing tobacco and cigars, as every other state in the union does? Also, will lawmakers pass an extraction tax on the gas-drilling industry? Will they side with the people, who will bear the immediate effects and after-effects of the drilling, or will they side with the big Marcellus drillers? And then, of course, there's the timing of budget approval. Republican state Rep. Sam Rohrer told WFMZ TV in Allentown that, this being an election year, there's a chance that a budget standoff could go past the 101-day-late embarrassment of last year. Heck, maybe the lawmakers could dilly-dally until after the election. No sense doing something that might anger voters when your political future is on the line. Of course, not even our state lawmakers are that stupid. Probably. But if they are, each and every one of them should be shown the door. In fact, after last year's fiasco, if they do anything approaching that 101-day-late mess, they all should be booted out.

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