Sunday, September 27, 2009

PA Budget Cluster Cluck- Brad Bumsted

Brad Bumsted is a veteran columnist and the state Capitol reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. His coverage of Harrisburg highlights issues facing the Commonwealth on a daily basis. His latest column deals with the inept process that still has the state waiting for a signed budget. Oh yes folks, just like Paul Kanjorski's statement to CNBC that a bailout package was reached when it was not the press announcement by House Leadership and the Governor are about as premature as a teenage boy experiencing a sign of manhood.

In the days of the late Jim Manderino and Matt Ryan, a budget agreement among leaders and the governor would be rammed through both chambers of the General Assembly within 24 hours.

Bleary-eyed lawmakers would be kept up all night to vote on a document they had been given just hours before.

Manderino, a Westmoreland Democrat, and Ryan, a Delaware County Republican, both served as speakers and floor leaders in the state House. They never would have allowed a proposed state budget agreement to hang in the air for a week while special interests and editorial writers picked it apart.

That's what's going on in this new age of supposed reform and transparency. With each day, rank-and-file lawmakers get more nervous about voting for the proposal.

There are no all-night sessions now. Surely that is an improvement.

But a budget agreement between Gov. Ed Rendell and the four caucuses in the House and Senate was announced more than a week ago. The delay is not a result of reforms enacted after the 2005 middle-of-the-night pay raise.

In fact, the announcement of the agreement in the dark looked a lot like the pay-jacking era. Not a single document was handed out to the media on details of the plan. Through last weekend and last week, legislators could obtain no details.

Transparency? It looked more like a plan issued by the Kremlin.

What was going on was they had reached only a very broad agreement and they were still negotiating on line items. Everyone was in a hurry to declare a deal because Pennsylvania was 80 days late on a budget as of Sept. 18. The state remains the only one in the nation without a budget. Today is the 89th day since the July 1 deadline for a budget.

At the news conference, they talked in broad terms about the plan. Some elements had been announced Sept. 11 by leaders of both parties.

The governor and leaders have no one to thank but themselves.

In another article Bumsted talks about the employee topheaviness of the legislature.

Pennsylvania is the sixth-largest state, has 4 percent of the nation's population, but features the largest legislative staff in the nation with 2,919 employees working for the House and Senate.

Why? The state Legislature is one of the most partisan legislatures in the country and because lawmakers -- at your expense -- have created a perpetual re-election machine with their Harrisburg and district office staff.

One of the problems with getting the budget on time this year was Todd Eachus and Keith McCall. While their party gave them the leadership positions the party could not confer the juice necessary to keep their caucus in line. As Brad Bumsted points out previous leaders knew how to round up the pose and get things done. Senator Mellow proved that point when he interjected himself into the negotiations.

Mr. Mellow was credited by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, Chester, as the catalyst for the round of leadership talks the past two weeks that led to the agreement. The talks started at the lieutenant governor's residence at Fort Indiantown Gap.

The young bucks need to reconsider staying in their posts if they really care about the citizens of this Commonwealth.

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