Monday, November 8, 2010

Legislative Clout

Earmarks continue to be a never ending dual edged sword. In Northeastern Pennsylvania we've come to expect our fair share of state and federal tax dollars for projects that are vital. However, when it is not our municipality named as beneficiary we tend to say earmarks should be stopped "for the other guy". In this article by BORYS KRAWCZENIUK of the Times-Tribune he examines the possible loss to our region of the legislative clout traditionally attributed to the money flow in their districts.

In the legislative halls of Harrisburg and Washington, seniority matters.

Seniority means clout, and come January, Northeast Pennsylvania will lose a lot of both.

Six long-serving legislators, people who have served in the state General Assembly and Congress for decades, will leave office for good, defeated in re-election bids or simply retiring

State Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-120, Kingston, one of the re-elected veteran legislators who will begin her third decade in office, said "bringing home the bacon" will be a lot harder.

"Seniority matters in Harrisburg as it does in Washington. It just does," Ms. Mundy said.

Seniority is more than being able to get things done more quickly because of your stature, she said.

"It's institutional knowledge. It's knowing who to call and where to go," she said.

Mundy is somewhat right and wrong in her assessment. Going forward Pennsylvania is looking at a $5 billion budget deficit. Where is the money going to come from to pay for the "pet projects"? She might argue that her seniority means she will be able to wield a little clout but does that really?

Freshman representatives and congressmen are going to be at the same trough as Phyllis Mundy. First and foremost they are already looking at re-election. Parties who want to hold onto specific seats will make sure these freshmen get their "share" to protect the seat although the total amount of money available to each agency will be reduced.

To counter KRAWCZENIUK's point let's examine the amount of money brought in by Chris Carney in the last three years vs. Paul Kanjorski. As you know Carney was elected three years ago to the 10th district seat. Kanjorski was elected in 1984. He ended his career in a loss to Lou Barletta on November 2nd.

If you go here and check the earmarks for all 19 Pennsylvania Congressmen some interesting statistics emerge.

For 2008, 2009, and 2010 Carney brought in $32,096,000 worth of solo earmarks to $10,174,000 for Kanjorski. If you look at solo earmarks with others for the three years combined Carney beat Kanjorski $69,421,000 to $53,682,000. Some seniority edge.

If you take the entire Pennsylvania delegation(including changes in who occupies the seat) and rank them according to money brought in on solo earmarks Kanjorski is almost at the bottom of the barrel 2008- 16 out of 19 bringing in $2,955,000, 2009- 16 out of 19 but two Congressmen, Altmire and Platts took none so really 16 out of 17 bringing in $3,119,00, and 2010 14 out of 19 with Pitts credited with nothing so 14 out of 18 bringing in $4,100,000.

Krawzceniuk's writing
26 years in the House, the second-ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee and chairman of its Capital Markets Subcommittee

So what were we really getting? Think about it. Cornerstone Technologies secured $10 million just slightly less than three years worth of district credit. When you add the $400 million loan guarantee for Abound Solar tell me his tenure wasn't more about his family and himself than his district.

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