Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Taxpayers Taken Again

How many Czars are in the United States Government at this time? Isn't that a term really associated with Russia? Well, here's a story about a taxpayer bailout of a bank that benefited Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. And no Rick Santorum had nothing to do with it

What does a $100 million dollar bailout get you? Ask Arthur Rooney II. Its a $135,000 lease on a luxury box at Heinz Field. Thank the top Treasury officials.

To be fair which is something the Democrats forgot

Luxury perks and big bonuses enjoyed by the recipients of massive government bailout programs have struck a raw nerve with some taxpayer groups, and have become a rallying cry among tea-party activists. But First National Bank's executives say the company's Steelers tickets should not be lumped in with other recent episodes.

Steve Gurgovits, the Chairman and CEO of First National Bank, told ABC News Tuesday that he understands why such an expense might look bad to the American public, but he wanted to make clear the bank spent none of the taxpayer funds – issued under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) during the final days of the Bush administration – on pricey stadium seats.

In fact, he said, the bank never touched the taxpayer money. It accepted the funds as a backstop in case the economy tanked, but conditions never got so bad that the bank actually needed them. FNB "paid back every penny of interest and principle" last September, Gurgovits said.

As for the Heinz Stadium luxury suite, Gurgovits said the company was partway into a 10-year lease – a lease it signed before Rooney joined the bank's board.

In the end one wonders how you separate TARP money that is not needed when you decided to accept it.

Senator Jake Corman- $1 Billion Deficit By July

Pa. lawmaker says $1B deficit is possible by July By MARC LEVY (Associated Press) Published: March 31, 2010 in the Times-Tribune

Back in February Todd Eachus made the claim that there shouldn't be any budget problems this year. He projected an approximate $500,000.00 shortfall in the 2010-11 budget.

One problem. As previously reported he skipped over this year's budget problems.

The Pennsylvania House announced three days ago that it approved a roughly $29 billion budget 100 days ahead of time as written in this report on by Kari Andersen. That press release was really only a symbolic gesture since the Senate won't take it up until next month after it sees how this year's budget is fairing out.

As the first headline indicates Pennsylvania is headed toward a $1 billion dollar deficit this year. If that figure comes to fruition it will signal a necessity to cut heavily in next year's budget if the salons want to exercise fiduciary responsiblity in spending taxpayer dollars. A dismal outcome could point to a $27 billion budget, not $29 billion.

Eliminate per diems, eliminate cell phones, eliminate travel expense, have legislatures pay towards their health care costs, eliminate franking, reduce legislative staff, consolidate legislative districts...cut, cut, and cut. The chance of those actions happening, slim to none.

Piazza- Personal Weakness, Can't Look Dad In The Eye

The Times Leader is reporting that Jeffrey Piazza was sentenced to 6 months in prison after pleading guilty in December to accepting kickbacks.

Jeffrey Piazza, 33, told U.S. Judge James Munley he knew what he did was wrong, and expressed sorrow that he has ruined the name of his father, August Piazza, a former school superintendent.

"The hardest thing was for me to look my dad in the eye and tell him what I had done.” Piazza told Munley just before the judge sentenced him to six months in federal prison.

During the proceedings Anthony Trombetta of Intellacom Inc. was identified as the person who paid the kickbacks.

Kevin Lynn Out At WILK

Kevin Lynn Let Go WNEP-TV 16 is reporting that Kevin Lynn confirmed he was let go by Entercom Communications where he served as co-host of the Nancy & Kevin Show. John Webster of the Daniels and Webster Show on Rock 107 has left his position and will be assuming a new position along side Nancy Kaman, replacing Lynn.

Kanjorski And Limousine Service

For the last two days the Today Show liberals Ann Curry and Matt Lauer have been pounding the RNC over air travel and limousine service paid for with campaign donations. Forget that Nancy Pelosi wanted to use taxpayer money to fly supporters all over the U.S. in a modified 757. It doesn't stop there. How about her repeated requests to use military jets and receive military escorts?

This report details the slanted way Curry and Lauer report on issues when it involves Nancy Pelosi.

NBC's Ann Curry offered a brief mention in her 7am news update and then Matt Lauer squeezed in a question about it during a larger q and a with David Gregory:

Let's take a look at Paul Kanjorski's 2008 and 2009 campaign expenditures for limousine service and hold his feet to the fire.

Luxury Limousine Service
50 Wharf Street
Pittston, Pennsylvania 18640

Travel 350.00

Travel 842.25

Travel 1080.00

Travel 337.75

He spends $2610.00 on himslef but Lauer and Curry complain about $13,000.00 for an entire committee.

Do you think Kanjorski is regretting these expenses?

Friends of Washo & O'Brien
PO Box 68
Scranton, Pennsylvania 18503
Tickets 80.00

Tickets 80.00

Platinum Sponsor 1000.00

Lauer et al also brought up the use of private jets by the RNC. Matt, why don't you talk about the liquor order aboard Nancy Pelosi's government funded jet.

Bill Goldsworthy Press Release HB2279

Bill Goldsworthy
For State Representative, 120th District

For more information: 570-237-1810

On March 23, 2010 the State House of Representatives passed HB2279, the General Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2010-2011. The price tag: $29 billion, a $1.2 billion increase over the current year. At the same time, Gov. Rendell is projecting a $525 million shortfall this year.

Because of last year’s budget debacle, lawmakers are trying to avoid the embarrassment of going 101 days without a budget by this early passage of a spending plan.

But doing it early is not the same as doing it responsibly. This is more of a spending plan than a budget. A budget requires a serious calculation of revenues and the common-sense approach of spending within one’s means – just like Pennsylvanians must do when they work on their own household and business budgets.

This $29 billion spending plan includes federal stimulus revenues of $2.76 billion. That’s a one-time gift. What happens next year? And the year after that? Relying on stimulus money to support future state budgets sets up Pennsylvanians for some serious financial problems. Once these funds are depleted, the state will be forced to deal with a multi-billion-dollar funding gap.

We all are aware of the looming state pension fiasco. Any responsible budget should address this problem by creating a reserve fund. It does not address the problem at all; lawmakers are just delaying the inevitable. Putting this issue on the backburner means an even bigger financial burden down the line for taxpayers.

So why did Phyllis Mundy vote for this $29 billion disaster? Does she think voting on a budget early makes up for doing so irresponsibly and without regard for the future?

Now more than ever, we need a responsible spending plan. We need lawmakers who are committed to representing the taxpayers and looking out for Pennsylvania citizens now and in the future. We need to bring spending under control and stop ignoring the looming pension crisis. It’s not going to go away just because we refuse to address it.

We need to avoid duplication of services and we need to eliminate per diems. We need elected officials who will work to lower taxes.

We need better than what we have right now. But most of all, we deserve better than what we are getting.

Eachus And Pay Hikes

Todd Eachus tries to explain the pay hikes that occurred late last year and after a pay freeze went into effect on January 1st. Although he claims pay rasies were a mistake he is ALLOWING them to keep them. Todd, how about Joe Taxpayer? Don't you think he wants his money back? Of course, Mr. Eachus never returned the illegal pay raise given to the Legislature in 2005.

Todd, a question. If a taxpayer makes a mistake on his state income tax return does he get to keep the money or does he have to return it and pay a penalty?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Paul Kanjorski's Pandering Extraordinare

In tomorrow's Times Leader they are going to print a story about Paul Kanjorski pandering to seniors that healthcare reform is good for them.
10:14 PM

Kanjorski touts health reform

Cough..B.S....Cough...B.S...okay enough with that.

In the same publication on the same day here is the headline
Posted: 1:00 AM
Updated: 1:20 AM

Health insurance could go up 17% for young adults

CARLA K. JOHNSON AP Medical Writer

Over at PA Watercooler they wrote about this problem.

Paul Kanjorski...whatahelluvajoburdoing...It's the Republicans who are supporting big insurance...No has always been you.

Here is Part 1- Kanjorski Owned By Business PACs

Part 2 Kanjorski Owned By Wall Street

Part 3 Kanjorski Owned By Wall Street (More)

Rank: 4 – Contributions from Insurance industry, career ($995,186) But ohh..yess Paul its the Republicans...why don't you return this money?

Kanjorski, Murphy,And The Vote Against Carney.

In January, 2008 Congressmen Paul Kanjorski, Chris Carney, and Tim Holden appeared on WVIA TV on its segment "Bringing the House Home". During that presentation Chris Carney took a shot at Kanjorski because he brought home almost 3 times as much in earmarks than Kanjorski as a first termer.

Their differences didn't stop there. Kanjorski and Carney were at odds with the $700 billion dollar bailout bill in November 2008.

It's no secret that Paul Kanjorski and John Murtha were close friends. Politico wrote a story about their love of earmark money in 2007. Reiterating the saga of Cornerstone Technologies Ken Vogel wrote "In 1998, with the help of Rep. John P. Murtha, a fellow Pennsylvanian and the top Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Kanjorski earmarked $3.5 million for the research through the Navy." John Murtha used his seat on the Appropriations committee to become known as the "legendary appropriations earmarker from Johnstown".

As the wind blows it was no secret John Murtha supported fellow Democrat Carney as evidenced by his appearance at this Carney fundraiser. It appears Murtha wanted to take Carney under his wings.

Nobody can say that Kanjorski's memory is failing him. After John Murtha's passing it came time to replace his seat on the House Appropriations Committee. The media reported Kanjorski didn't support Carney for the position. Kanjorski's rescue team tried to couch its position on the vote by claiming it was secret but the cat was out of the bag.

Gort42 reported on his blog that Murtha backed Carney for a seat on the panel. Carney's appointment would have benefited Kanjorski but more importantly Northeastern Pennsylvania. Instead it appears Kanjorski threw his support to Philadelphia and Patrick Murphy. I wonder if Kanjorski went overboard into the ocean with women and children whether he would give them the life preserver first.

The vote was deja vu for Carney all over again. In December 2006 then freshman Chris Carney was denied a seat on the same committee despite a pledge by John Murtha to see he was appointed to it. One can't blame Murtha for trying but he just didn't have the votes. Carney should have said he was an earmark. Murtha would have been all over it.

Corey O'Brien, Kanjorski's primary opponent this election season, seized on the opportunity to discredit Kanjorski even though Kanjorski's office tried to deflect the criticism of a supposed secret vote. Evidently despite the claims by Ed Mitchell and Paul Kanjorski about his senority when it comes down to brass tacks Kanjorski doesn't have enough strength to hang a piece of paper on corkboard.

You may remember that Charlie Rangel held fundraisers for Murphy, Kanjorski, and Carney. Kanjorski and Murphy refused to give the money back. At least Chris Carney was willing to donate it to charity demonstrating his military training and instilled values.

As far as Patrick Murphy goes his political tactics mirror Paul Kanjorski. This letter to the editor that appears from The Intelligencer on exposes a press release from Murphy that appears to intentionally mislead the public.

To the Editor:

Shortly after proudly voting "yes" on the health care bill, 8th District Congressman Patrick Murphy issued a press release entitled, "Bucks County Small Businesses Thank Rep. Murphy For Supporting Healthcare Insurance Reform." As a local small-business owner, my husband has heard underwhelming business support for Murphy around Bucks County. Thus, being baffled by the press release, we did a little research.

It seems that the organization that issued this "thank you" to Murphy, The Small Business Majority, is a nonprofit formed in 2009 to supposedly "speak for the nearly 28 million Americans who are self-employed or own businesses of up to 100 employees." But looking further into it, this organization has only 28 members nationwide. So it is really only .000001 percent of the nation's small businesses that are taking the liberty to speak for the rest of small-business owners. Furthermore, of the two lone Pennsylvania small businesses declaring membership in this "majority" organization, neither is from Murphy's congressional district.

This is just one more instance of Patrick Murphy's blatant mismanagement of truth and his repeated refusal to accurately represent his constituency. He needs to be voted out in November.

If Carney wins in November, and this is no means an endorsement, maybe he will have another shot at the seat. In the meantime he should watch his back. His bedfellows appear to have bedbugs.

Carney Takes On Palin

Carney Wants Sarah Palin To Come To Northeast PA For A Debate It would be a most interesting confrontation to say the least.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Big Win For Big Pharma

In this Associated Press article by Alan Fran he outlines how the big pharmaceutical giants lobbyists made sure that the healthcare reform bill was a WIN for them.

WASHINGTON — Chalk one up for the pharmaceutical lobby. The U.S. drug industry fended off price curbs and other hefty restrictions in President Barack Obama's health care law even as it prepares for plenty of new business when an estimated 32 million uninsured Americans gain health coverage.

To be sure, the law also levies taxes and imposes other costs on pharmaceutical companies, leaving its final impact on the industry's bottom line uncertain. A recent analysis by Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street firm, suggests the overhaul could mean "a manageable hit" of tens of billions of dollars over the coming decade while bolstering the value of drug-company stocks. Others expect profits, not losses, of the same magnitude.

Either way, pharmaceutical lobbyists won new federal policies they coveted and set a trajectory for long-term industry growth. Privately, several of them say their biggest triumph was heading off Democrats led by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who wanted even more money from their industry to finance the health care system's expansion.

"Pharma came out of this better than anyone else," said Ramsey Baghdadi, a Washington health policy analyst who projects a $30 billion, 10-year net gain for the industry. "I don't see how they could have done much better."

Chalk up another one for Kanjorski and Carney's vote for Big Pharma. Washington wasn't worried about taking care of the middle class. It was and will continue to worry about the political dollars dolled out by lobbyists.

As an addendum there is a commercial being aired by "Americans For Stable Quality Care" supporting Paul Kanjorski. Who is a member of that organization? Big Pharma- we represent millions of doctors, nurses, technicians, manufacturers, hospitals, drug companies and health care consumers across the U.S. Never known a loser in a political issue to pay for commercials for a politician.

Obama, Pelosi, Reid Exempt Staff from New Federal Health Gulags

Press Release From Congressman John Carter's Office


(WASHINGTON, DC) – In what will likely be recorded as the greatest political hypocrisy in American history, President Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have exempted the entire Administration along with House and Senate leadership and committee staff members from participation in their new federal healthcare gulags, while forcing rank-and-file House and Senate staff out of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) and into the restricted federal health insurance pools, along with the rest of working Americans.

“This is such an incredible affront to every principle of equality in this country that it demands an immediate apology to the nation by the President,” says House Republican Conference Secretary John Carter. “That should be followed by a straight up-and-down vote in the House and Senate on a bill requiring every Member and staff in both Houses and the Administration be included in this new monstrosity, with no exceptions for leadership, committee staff, the President’s cabinet, or the President. If they think this crap is good enough for Joe the Plumber, then it should be good enough for Barack Obama, Rahm Emmanuel, and Tim Geithner.”

HR 3590, signed into law by President Obama earlier today, removes House and Senate Members and their official staff from FEHBP, forcing them and the rest of the country into the new federal exchanges. However, the bill was amended by Reid in the Senate to exclude all leadership and committee staff, who along with the President, Vice-President, Cabinet Members, thousands of Obama Administration staff, and an unknown number of Czars, would be allowed to remain in the superior FEHBP program.

Carter, himself a member of the House Republican leadership with staffers that would be included in the waiver, says the law should be applied equally to all, or none.

“Either every Member of Congress and the Administration and their staff at every level should move to the federal exchanges, or no American anywhere should be forced to do so. Senator Reid’s actions speak much louder than his words on what this bill was really about,” says Carter.

Earmarks Are Alive And Well With Kanjorski And Carney

The two congressmen who represent the Poconos each brought between $17 million and $21 million in earmarks for their home districts in fiscal year 2010, but only one delivered some of that money to Monroe County. The article was written by Michael Sadowski of the Pocono Record.

Coverage For Sick Children In Question

Much has been made about a healthcare bill that was 2,409 pages. It was painfully obvious that those who voted for it could never claim they read every page and verse. This article from the New York Times demonstrates that Paul Kanjorski and Chris Carney who voted for the bill might have missed this little mistake.

The authors of the law say they meant to ban all forms of discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, birth defects, orthopedic problems, leukemia, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease. The goal, they say, was to provide those youngsters with access to insurance and to a full range of benefits once they are in a health plan.

To insurance companies, the language of the law is not so clear.

Insurers agree that if they provide insurance for a child, they must cover pre-existing conditions. But, they say, the law does not require them to write insurance for the child and it does not guarantee the “availability of coverage” for all until 2014.

William G. Schiffbauer, a lawyer whose clients include employers and insurance companies, said: “The fine print differs from the larger political message. If a company sells insurance, it will have to cover pre-existing conditions for children covered by the policy. But it does not have to sell to somebody with a pre-existing condition. And the insurer could increase premiums to cover the additional cost.”

In plain language the insurance companies are taking the position that if a child has a pre-existing condition with no insurance or wants to switch insurance companies there is no mandate in the law that they have to write the policy.

But, insurers say, until 2014, the law does not require them to write insurance at all for the child or the family. In the language of insurance, the law does not include a “guaranteed issue” requirement before then.

Consumer advocates worry that instead of refusing to cover treatment for a specific pre-existing condition, an insurer might simply deny coverage for the child or the family.

“If you have a sick kid, the individual insurance market will continue to be a scary place,” said Karen L. Pollitz, a research professor at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University.

Experts at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners share that concern.

Obviously Kanjorsk and Carney don't share the same concern otherwise it wouldn't take SOP to bring it to their attention.

Editorial Calls Dwight Evan's Attack On AG Corbett "LOONY"!

Colin McNickle, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's director of editorial pages, writes a scathing editorial about Dwight Evan's attack on AG Corbett over the lawsuit on healthcare.

Dwight Evans, the chairman of the Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee, is threatening to cut the Legislature's appropriation to the office of state Attorney General Tom Corbett.

Mr. Evans, a Philadelphia Democrat, is peeved that Mr. Corbett, a Shaler Republican seeking the GOP's gubernatorial nomination, joined attorneys general of more than a dozen states to challenge the constitutionality of ObamaCare.

Evans has the audacity to call Corbett's participation in the lawsuit against the constitutionality of certain provisions in the federal healthcare bill rammed down the people's throat as a "political stunt".

He wants people to believe his own press conference was for the good of the people and not a political stunt. It was such a shallow attempt at leadership no wonder Harrisburg is in such a disarray.

"(H)e will pay for it in his department," Evans said at a news conference.

No, Dwight, we will pay for it in increased premiums and unfunded mandates raising taxes.

That said, Evans' base argument is loony, given what Corbett's lawsuit seeks to accomplish.

Evans cites "the state's fragile economic situation," which he says already has affected Corbett's office. "I do not believe it is prudent to spend taxpayer dollars on such a suit."

So, does he believe it's "prudent" to encumber an already strapped state with hundreds of millions of dollars -- perhaps even $1 billion -- of unfunded mandates?

The primary basis of the AGs' lawsuit is that ObamaCare violates the Commerce Clause. As the lawsuit states, "It has never been held that the Commerce Clause ... can be used to require citizens to buy goods and services. To depart from that history to permit the national government to require the purchase of goods and services would deprive the Commerce Clause of any effective limits."

Hey, maybe Evans is hoping to use the Commerce Clause to force people to shop at those government-subsidized grocery stores of which he's so fond to ensure their "success." While being well intentioned, they are a horribly inefficient allocation of resources in any economic climate.

Protecting taxpayers, as the Corbett et al. lawsuit seeks to do, is not playing politics. Defending the Constitution is no stunt. But attempting to kill such a lawsuit with bombastic threats of budget cuts and bogus rationales is. Dwight Evans should know better. More's the pity that he does not.

Advocating what is right is not politics. Threatening several hundred employees with a "whip" is appalling behavior but not untypical of the same behavior that begat Bonusgate.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

For Those Who Believe The Health Care Bill Screws The Insurance Industry

Health care bill benefits insurance industryand The Reasons. Take a look at why the next movie is "Insurers Gone Wild" So why do insurers welcome Obamacare? Why are the Democrats labeling Republicans as protecting insurers when the Dems gave them 32 million more customers? Ask any businessperson whether their business will suffer or flourish if they recieve 32 million more customers?

The Obamacare Scam. Hidden taxes in legislation that inflates premiums.

Did Anyone See This Survey??

Shocking! Survey in New England Journal of Medicine Says 46% of US Doctors Will Quit If Obamacare Passes

The Tea Party Is About An Angry America, Not A Particular Party

The Tea Party Movement- An Explanation and What It Means To Be A Tea Party Patriot. You can "Redeclare Your Independence"by clicking here. If you want to find a Tea Party click on the map.

Richard Connor,editor and publisher of the Times Leader, captured this movement best without it being the topic of his Opinion. He was discussing the current political fight over the passage of the healthcare bill.

So, there is not much really new about this fight. Universal health care coverage is new. But the view many persons in the country have of it are not much different than the views Calhoun held about laws passed in Congress in his day. Calhoun believed those laws were out of step with the views of the majority of voters.

“The Government of the absolute majority instead of the Government of the people is but the Government of the strongest interests; and when not efficiently checked, it is the most tyrannical and oppressive that can be devised,” he said over a century ago.

There is ample polling evidence that the votes in Congress on health care reform do not match the sentiments of a majority in the public. And this is not new, either.

“A power has risen up in the government greater than the people themselves, consisting of many and various and powerful interests, combined into one mass, and held together by the cohesive power of the vast surplus in the banks,” said Calhoun.

Join the Drop Nancy Pelosi Movement.

Poverty Rose In Pennsylvania and More Job Losses In February

In response to a post praising Phyllis Mundy SOP wants to highlight two articles over the last few days that speak otherwise. The Pennsylvania Independent writes a post that 16,000 jobs were lost in Pennsylvania for the month of February.

"This is an example of how Pennsylvania is always late into a recession and slow to come out of it," said Matt Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, a Harrisburg-based free market think tank. "If Gov. Rendell's economic policies were working and the stimulus money was doing its job, we wouldn't be seeing these kinds of job losses."

The Citizen's Voice ran an article about the increase in poverty in Pennsylvania on March 26, 2010.

About 14 percent of Luzerne County residents were living in poverty in 2008, up from about 11 percent in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. A family of four was considered impoverished in 2008 if their income fell below $22,025, according to U.S. Census Bureau guidelines.

The Citizen's Voice story described the jobs summit last Thursday at the Luzerne County Community College.

State Reps. Todd A. Eachus, Phyllis Mundy, Eddie Day Pashinski, Jim Wasacz and John Yudichak, who represent the Luzerne County House Delegation, attended the jobs summit. With the unemployment rate in Northeastern Pennsylvania hovering just below 10 percent, they all echoed concerns about residents struggling to find jobs.

Mundy said they will take the issues raised at the summit to Harrisburg and will work together to find solutions for job creation, get the unemployed back to work and improve the local economy. Pashinski called the event a "shining example of civility."

"Collaboration is so critical," Pashinski said. "The country needs all of us working together across party lines. It's a critical time in the history of mankind. We are in a very dangerous time."

They had the federal government pump millions into Pennsylvania and we are still losing jobs. According to this data 12,000+ jobs were created by the stimulus yet will still lost 16,000 jobs. But they are going back to Harrisburg to see what they can do???

And what about that healthcare that won Mundy some praise from a local blogger. Back in 2007 Todd Eachus, then chairman of the House Policy Committee issued this press release concerning the health crisis in Pennsylvania.

“Right now there are nearly 800,000 people without health coverage, and millions more struggling with access to quality, affordable health care,” Eachus said.

Speed the tape up to today and one will see that figure has risen to 1.3 million.

Now that is one helluva job Eachus and Mundy are doing in Harrisburg for health coverage and jobs creation. SOP won't sell you a bridge but there was this fantasy cargo airport that was going to bring in hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Legislative Staff Receives Pay Raise Just To Beat Freeze

If this story doesn't resonate in Northeastern Pennsylvania the voters shouldn't complain about the dismal state of the Union in Pennsylvania.

Patriot News reporter Jan Murphy is reporting that "In the two months before the state House Democratic caucus enacted a salary freeze starting Jan. 1, staffers saw a flurry of activity that raised eyebrows.

Those with access to payroll information saw a raise amounting to $18,642 annually for Paul Parsells, the chief of staff to House Speaker Keith McCall, D-Carbon. While he received a 14 percent bump boosting his salary to $150,000 a year, other staffers got a maximum 3 percent raise.

Staffers saw House Parliamentarian Reizdan Moore received a yearly raise amounting to $6,095. It struck them as odd because his anniversary date is in the spring. Typically, House employees are considered for raises on their hiring anniversaries. Others in McCall’s office received raises, too.

Staffers, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of job reprisal, suspected preferential treatment had been granted to staffers who work for legislative leaders.

They also grumbled about the timing of the memo about the pay freeze. The memo came out Dec. 31 with little to no warning to House Democratic legislators or staffers outside leadership circles.

Then, further rankling staffers, word spread about 12 employees who got raises despite the pay freeze, or salary control as caucus officials call it.

House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne, said the dozen staffers should not have received the increases, calling the raises mistakes.

Eachus said the pay freeze was necessary to keep the caucus from running out of money. House leaders said no preferential treatment was given to leadership staff.

If that last statement is true why is it that only 12 leadership staff benefited from the raise? This action is not the first time leadership staffing costs have been raised.

John Micek over at the Allentown Morning Call >a brought his issue to light last year.

New House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne, was swept into office late last year vowing to clean up the reputation of a caucus battered by scandal and to act as an aggressive steward of the public purse.

“In the end, we have to match our work to the policies that people are struggling with,” the Hazleton lawmaker told The Morning Call earlier this year. “People are losing their jobs … and we must forge policies that matter to real people.”

But in the last month, Eachus has made at least two high-priced hires — taking on a new chief-of-staff and a caucus counsel at salaries larger than those paid to their predecessors, according to data provided by his office.

Both are key positions within Eachus’ office, as is the new press secretary the northeastern Democrat announced Monday.

But at least one other legislative caucus in Harrisburg, the Senate Republicans, has pursued a policy of not paying new employees more than the people they succeed.

In February, Eachus announced that he’d hired Harrisburg lobbyist, and onetime Democratic employee, Laura Kuller as his new chief-of-staff.

Kuller will earn $161,000, or nearly $24,000 more than the salary paid in the last legislative session to Sandra F. Williams, who served as chief to then Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Greene.

Eachus’ new counsel, former Rendell administration senior lawyer Nora Winkelman, is being paid $149,900, or $16,781 more than the $133,119 salary paid to DeWeese's top lawyer William Martin Sloane last year.

The Republican took a different approach.

But not everyone in the Capitol takes the same approach as the House Democrats.

For at least two years, Senate Republicans have only filled jobs out of necessity, and have brought on new hires at no more than 85 percent of the salaries of their predecessors.

“We continue to keep hires to an absolute minimum or not at all,” said Lt. Gov. Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who also retains his title as the chamber's presiding officer. “As people retire, it will be an absolutely necessary replacement, not an automatic replacement.

It perplexes the mind that Democrats are not questioning their leaders or calling them out on unethical practices. This issue simply fails the smell test.

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Arizona Law Promises To Be Toughest On Illegal Immigration

Republicans Float Bill to Charge Illegal Immigrants with Trespassing

A bill empowering police to arrest illegal immigrants and charge them with trespassing for simply being in the state of Arizona, is likely just weeks away from becoming the toughest law of its kind anywhere in the country.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nancy Pelosi's Parody

What's Next For Nancy Pelosi??!!

Workers Processing Obama's Checks- FIRED

Read this story and tell us how he is helping people keep their jobs.

Healthcare Coverage- What Does It Really Mean?

In a previous post we touched on the subject of health insurance coverage in the newly signed Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act, otherwise commonly known as the Healthcare Reform Bill. What people are hearing and what the bill really contains seems to be a severe disconnect.

If anyone believes that the coverage for the uninsured will cover everything, think again. That is known as a Cadiallac plan that will be taxed. Will the policies have a deductible of $5,000.00, $10,000.00, what will it be? Will it cover prescription medications? What exactly is the government promising to the citizenry when it states it has passed healthcare reform? Let's take a look

• Create four benefit categories of plans plus a separate catastrophic plan to be offered through the Exchange, and in the individual and small group markets:
– Bronze plan represents minimum creditable coverage and provides the essential health benefits, cover 60% of the benefit costs of the
plan, with an out-of-pocket limit equal to the Health Savings Account (HSA) current law limit ($5,950 for individuals and $11,900 for
families in 2010);
So who has that kind of money laying around to pay for healthcare.If you can't afford the premium how can you afford the out of pocket expense?
– Silver plan provides the essential health benefits, covers 70% of the benefit costs of the plan, with the HSA out-of-pocket limits;
– Gold plan provides the essential health benefits, covers 80% of the benefit costs of the plan, with the HSA out-of-pocket limits;
- Platinum plan provides the essential health benefits, covers 90% of the benefit costs of the plan, with the HSA out-of-pocket limits;
– Catastrophic plan available to those up to age 30 or to those who are exempt from the mandate to purchase coverage and provides catastrophic coverage only with the coverage level set at the HSA current law levels except that prevention benefits and coverage for three primary care visits would be exempt from the deductible. This plan is only available in the individual market.

Hold onto your pocket book if you are a low-income individual or family.

– • Reduce the out-of-pocket limits for those with incomes up to 400% FPL to the following levels:
– 100-200% FPL: one-third of the HSA limits
($1,983/individual and $3,967/family);
– 200-300% FPL: one-half of the HSA limits
($2,975/individual and $5,950/family);
– 300-400% FPL: two-thirds of the HSA limits
($3,987/individual and $7,973/family).
These out-of-pocket reductions are applied within the actuarial limits of the plan and will not increase the actuarial value of the plan.

FPL stands for the Federal Poverty Level. Here is a chart of the federal poverty levels for 2009-2010. $10,830 for an individual and $22,050 for a family of four. If you are at those levels you will be expected to pay $1,983/individual and $3,967/family. Folks, are they kidding us??? If they call that a reduction what a scam.

In an effort to educate the masses here is some other highlights of the bill from the Kaiser Family Foundation that are worth mentioning.

• Impose new annual fees on the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, according to the following schedule:
– $2.8 billion in 2012-2013;
– $3.0 billion in 2014-2016;
– $4.0 billion in 2017;
– $4.1 billion in 2018; and
– $2.8 billion in 2019 and later.
• Impose an annual fee on the health insurance sector, according to the following schedule:
– $8 billion in 2014;
– $11.3 billion in 2015-2016;
– $13.9 billion in 2017;
– $14.3 billion in 2018
– For subsequent years, the fee shall be the amount from the previous year increased by the rate of premium growth.

If anyone believes that those entities won't in turn pass on those costs to the consumers there are a few bridges for sale. Basically consumers will have to pay premiums then higher premiums because these costs will be passed on.

• Create state-based American Health Benefit Exchanges and Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchanges, administered by a governmental agency or non-profit organization, through which individuals and small businesses with up to 100 employees can purchase qualified coverage. Permit states to allow businesses with more than 100 employees to purchase coverage in the SHOP Exchange beginning in 2017. States may form regional Exchanges or allow more than one Exchange to operate in a state as long as each Exchange serves a distinct geographic area. (Funding available to states to establish Exchanges within one year of enactment and until January 1, 2015) Individuals and small businesses will not receive any ability to purchase qualified coverage until 2017. Exchanges will allow businesses to pool their purchase lowering costs. Evidently that wasn't important enough to happen now.

Some sobering analysis. That is why they want to tell you that the Republicans are obstructionists. It keeps your eye off the real problems in this legislation.

Let's go on to Medicaid.

Expand Medicaid to all individuals under age 65 (children, pregnant women, parents, and adults without dependent children) with incomes up to 133% FPL based on modified adjusted gross income (as under current law and in the House and Senate-passed bills undocumented immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid). All newly eligible adults will be guaranteed a benchmark benefit package that at least provides the essential health benefits. To finance the coverage for the newly eligible (those who were not previously eligible for a full benchmark benefit package or who were eligible for a capped program but were not enrolled), states will receive 100% federal funding for 2014 through 2016, 95% federal financing in 2017, 94% federal financing in 2018, 93% federal financing in 2019, and 90% federal financing for 2020 and subsequent years. States that have already expanded eligibility to adults with incomes up to 100% FPL will receive a phased-in increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for non-pregnant childless adults sothat by 2020 they receive the same federal financing (90%) as other states. In addition, increase Medicaid payments in fee-forservice and managed care for primary care services provided by primary care doctors (family medicine, general internal medicine or pediatric medicine) to 100% of the Medicare payment rates for 2013 and 2014. States will receive 100% federal financing for the increased payment rates. (Effective January 1,2014)

So taxpayers of individual states will have to share the burden and costs of this expansion starting in 2017 and beyond- A federal mandate but a state problem. No wonder the 14 Attorney Generals are suing the government.

Obama, Kanjorski, and Carney are taking the ability to use your FSA/HSA to pay for over the counter purchases.

Exclude the costs for over-the-counter drugs not prescribed by a doctor from being reimbursed through an HRA or health FSA and from being reimbursed on a tax-free basisthrough an HSA or Archer Medical Savings Account. (Effective January 1, 2011)

To the abortion foes

• Require plans that choose to offer coverage for abortions beyond those for which federal funds are permitted (to save the life of the woman and in cases of rape or incest) in states that allow such coverage to create allocation accounts for segregating premium payments for coverage of abortion services from premium payments for coverage for all other services to ensure that no federal premium or cost-sharing subsidies are used to pay for the abortion coverage. Plans must also estimate the actuarial value of covering abortions by
taking into account the cost of the abortion benefit (valued at no less than $1 per enrollee per month) and cannot take into account any
savings that might be reaped as a result of the abortions.

Prohibit abortion coverage from being required as part of the essential health benefits package. (Effective January 1, 2014)

Can an Executive Order really supercede the law of the land? Why not prohibit it now? Why wait until 2014?

Paul Kanjorski and Chris Carney had a choice. The information above represents their choice.

A Bonusgate Juror Blogs The Experience

Link to Jonathan Smith's Blog

According to Tracie Mauriello defendent Steve Stetler has a preliminary hearing on Friday in the next round of Bonusgate court appearances.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Roxbury News

Roxbury News-Atty Dan Raynak Interview on Veon Conviction

Jury Foreman In Bonusgate Trial Speaks Out

AP: Foreman Says Veon Jury Debated To Last Minute

Irish Wolfhound Gets It Right

From A great explanation about healthcare and rights.

Health is not a right. It is a personal responsibility. Healthcare is not a right. It is a commodity. Health insurance is not a right. It is a financial risk management tool. Those who try to equate the Constitutional right of 'life' with health, health care, health insurance have got it completely wrong. The Constitution does not guarantee that the federal government will provide you with life. Instead it guarantees that the federal government will not take life away from you. Unless the government has done something to your health that resulted in the loss of your life, then you have no claim against the government, or a right to its monies (which come from taxes).

Chris Paige Drops Out of Race

According to a story on the Times Leader website by Bill O'Boyle Monroe County hedge fund attorney Chris Paige has decided to drop out the race for the Republican nomination to Congress in the 11th district. Lou Barletta will now run unopposed and face the Democratic nominee in the fall.

“I’ve withdrawn from the race to address some health and family issues,” Paige said in an e-mail announcing his decision.

On March 15th Chris Paige announced a personal family issue that struck a chord with SOP. To Mr. Paige and his wife nothing in politics transcends the dignity and respect for the institution known as family. The emotions and healing in your personal adversity are hard for us to imagine. It took great courage to share your news with the world. It is not for us to counsel you on the process you are going through but know that through all this there is empathy and compassion for your decision to concentrate on the most important reason for marriage and love. Our prayers go out to you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Corruption Case Begs Questions For Eachus

In the midst of the Bonusgate trial and its conclusion questions remain about Representative Todd Eachus's role concerning the use of taxpayer funds for campaign purposes. Eachus has denied involvement, maintained that he cooperated in the investigation, refused to speak before the grand jury when given the opportunity, and his spokesperson stated he never was interviewed. All of those statements should not coexist in the same sentence.

Mark Scoloforo of the Associated Press wrote an interesting article at

..the facts that have emerged so far strongly suggest that the line between campaign work and legitimate legislative business has been kept blurry in Harrisburg, and that many of the people who have benefited may never pay much of a price for it.

That is where the speeches, parades and pancake breakfasts come in. Along with the usual topics — highway projects, the state budget, property taxes and national political issues — voters might want to ask their local state representatives and senators a few questions about the scandal that has become known as "bonusgate."

Here are a few suggestions from someone who has followed the investigation since its inception and spent the past two months in the Veon trial courtroom:

• The investigation: Did your name turn up in any of the four grand jury reports, or during the trial of Veon or Rep. Sean Ramaley, a Beaver County Democrat acquitted in December?

• Campaign policies: Do you allow your underlings to work on your campaigns? What rules are in place to make sure they properly account for any campaign time? What efforts do you make to ensure they don't feel pressured to "volunteer" to electioneer for you? Do you maintain a separate campaign office? Does anyone on the state government payroll serve as your campaign manager or treasurer? Have you changed your campaign policies in response to the bonusgate scandal?

• Legislative staff: How many state employees work for you, even those whose supervisors are technically the caucus leader? What are the duties of each? How much compensatory time off did they accrue over the past several years? Did any receive bonuses the Attorney General's Office considers to have been rewards for campaign work, and if so, should they have to return the money? Do you make your Harrisburg staff remain on duty, no matter what, on nights when your chamber is in session?

• Mailings: How often have you sent out mass mailings to people in your district on the taxpayer's dime? Have you tended to send them out as near to the election as the rules allow?

• Per diems: Do you accept them? Have you ever collected a per diem the same day you've consumed a taxpayer-paid breakfast, lunch or dinner? Do you support changing the rules to ban that type of double-dipping?

• Legal fees: Do you support your caucus' use of taxpayer money to provide legal representation to members and employees in the public corruption investigation? Have you obtained legal advice regarding the investigation, and did taxpayers pay for it?

• Nepotism: Should there be restrictions on hiring relatives to work for the Legislature?

Harrisburg's political culture brings to mind the cliche about everyone complaining about the weather, but not doing anything about it. Voters who want to see changes in their General Assembly this year might start by asking a few questions.

Eachus has repeatedly refused to answer media questions surrounding the proposed Hazleton cargo airport and his relationship with Robert Powell. Is there a link between the campaign contributions and the effort to secure airport funding? How many trips were provided on the Powell jet? Are there any other perks that taxpayers would be interested in knowing about? Since Powell is no longer associated with the project why did you drop the effort to bring those jobs to our area?

When voters from the 116th see him on the street pick a question from this list or the one above. Jot down his response or lack thereof.

Eachus boasts about the effort he orchestrated to bring about the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections. He should explain to the voters how he separated himself from convicted felon Michael Veon concerning the workings of legislative staff in campaign efforts and taxpayer money used to pay for their time spent on same.

Finally if Robert Powell wore a wire did he only tape judges or were there others? That's not a question for Mr. Eachus. That one is for law enforcement to answer.

Acorn To Disband

Acorn to Disband and Cease Operations What's Obama gonna due next election??

Lou Barletta On Healthcare Reform Bill Passage And Kanjorski Vote


The long awaited trial of Michael Veon et al in what has been dubbed Bonusgate is over with the jury announcing its verdict at 8P.M.

In the order of the announcement:

Mike Veon has been found guilty in 14 of the 59 charges against him. Defendent Brett Cott was found guilty of 3 of 42 charges against him. Stephen Keefer was found not guilty of any charges. Anna Marie Peretta-Rosepink was found guilty in 5 of the 22 charges against her.

Earlier in the day, Dauphin County Judge Richard Lewis denied a defense motion for a mistrial.

The judge was empathetic towards the jury for their length of service and hardship. The jury is discharged and heads home.

Read the story by Tracie Mauriello of the Post Gazette by clicking here.

Healthcare Reform What Does That Mean?

Perusing the internet today provided many different perspectives on the health care reform reconciliation bill passed by the House yesterday(giving new meaning to March Madness). Maybe it was the sites chosen but an overwhelming backlash seems to be developing over the nod given by the House. What exactly does the healtcare reform mean? Did we fix what was broken or break what was working?

Paul Kanjorski tried to peddle his usual "we sort of stretched the facts" by claiming the bill was "essential to the country's economic future" in this story by Borys Krawczenick of the Times Tribune.

"If we lose this fight today, it will be 15, 20 years before we get a president and a Congress that would take this on," Kanjorski said.

His faithful Democratic followers must ask him "Paul, if the bill was ESSENTIAL to the future and the fight that important why weren't you behind it sooner?" Or will the saying "the people ate it up" hold true once more.

In a display of hutzpah his colleague, Chris Carney, proffered to the masses that "saying yes to health care was absolutely the right vote" in a story appearing in the Times Leader by Andrew Seder.

“Electoral politics did not come in to play,” Carney, D-Dimock Township, said fro mWashington, D.C. on Monday. “You don’t govern based on upcoming elections. If you do you don’t deserve to be here.”

Tom Baldino, a political science professor at Wilkes University, said he wasn’t surprised by Carney's vote but he questioned the two-term congressman's assertions that the upcoming elections didn’t factor in.

“Every vote in Congress takes into consideration the reelection of the member,” Baldino said.

In an interview on Bloomberg Television this morning former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin called the deficit savings from this bill as games and fantasy. The doctors accepting Medicare have a $300 Billion dollar increase in fees due them, NOT IN THE BILL. The cost to run the operations of this bill is $114 Billion, NOT IN THE BILL. $70 Billion in long term care premiums used to calculate deficit reduction, not recognizing that premiums mean claims and the claims are NOT IN THE BILL.
$53 Billion stolen from Social Security used to calculate deficit reduction forgetting that one day benefits will have to be paid, NOT IN THE BILL. Lastly $460 Billion in Medicare cuts with no mechanism in the bill to accomplish those cuts, IN THE BILL WITH NO TEETH.

Overall Holtz-Eakin puts the price tag on this bill at $2.5 trillion dollars with $600 billion to $1 trillion missing in funding. Our children and their children will be paying twice. Once when they have to buy the insurance and the second time when they have to pay off the debt to fund it.

We could have fixed what was broken without this massive burden of debt. Covering the people who are high risk, covering children to age 26, eliminating denying coverage all together, etc. were simple fixes rolled into a complex equation.

The drugmakers were the whipping post to excite the masses for the need to reform healthcare. Guess what? They got more customers with extension of their products covered and paid for by the government in this bill. They are winners not losers. Did Obama, Kanjorski, and Carney tell the public that? Now that one WAS IN THE BILL.

The bill does nothing to reduce costs so premiums will still increase. And the biggest fact left out is the reality that every day there are more and more people in this nation and on this planet. Reducing total costs is a fantasy goal unachievable. If there are 80 million more people in this nation now than 30 years ago there is absolutely no way to reduce the total cost without reducing coverage and care.

The constitutional challenges already started with Tom Corbett at the forefront. The stark reality is that Washington is forcing the costs of this plan onto the states. And they will have nothing of it.

The Louisiana Purchase has an opportunity to repeat itself. Why Lousiana gets $300 million in Medicaid funding while the other 49 get saddled with its costs is a question Kanjorski and Carney need to square up with their Pennsylania constituents.

As for the real benefits of the bill:


The real transformation of America's health insurance system won't take place until 2014.

Four breathtaking changes will happen simultaneously:

• Insurers will be required to take all applicants. They won't be able to turn down people in poor health, or charge them more.

• States will set up new insurance supermarkets for small businesses and people buying their own coverage, pooling together to get the kind of purchasing clout government workers have now.

• Most Americans will be required to carry health insurance, either through an employer, a government program or by buying their own. Those who refuse will face fines from the IRS.

• Tax credits to help pay for premiums will start flowing to middle-class working families, and Medicaid will be expanded to cover more low income people. Households making up to four times the poverty level — about $88,000 for a family of four_ will be eligible for assistance. But the most generous aid — including help with copayments and deductibles — will be for those on the lower-to-middle rungs of the income scale.

When all is said and done, the majority of working-age Americans and their families will still have employer-sponsored coverage, as they do now. But the number of uninsured will drop by more than half. Illegal immigrants would account for more than one-third of the remaining 23 million people without coverage.

Cost could be the Achilles' heel of the whole effort.

"I hope it is not repealed, because we do need to extend coverage to most of our population," said Gail Wilensky, who ran Medicare for President George H.W. Bush and remains a leading health care adviser to Republicans. "But it could well be substantially modified. It expands coverage, but it does very little to take on two other major issues: improving quality and leveling the rate of growth in spending."

P.S. One more thing...Congress gets to keep its Cadillac plan and does not participate in this legislation like the rest of us.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

HealthCare Reform

Today will be the historic vote on healthcare. Tomorrow will be the consequences. Medicare review.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Priest Response

Munchak and Cordaro jabs fly at Friendly Sons dinner

Charles Schillinger, Staff Writer

Published: March 18, 2010DICKSON CITY — Friendly banter is a given at the annual dinner of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Lackawanna County

Monsignor Joseph G. Quinn also poked fun at the number of officials who announced their candidacy for the seat of retiring state Sen. Robert J. Mellow, D-22, Peckville.

“I come home tonight to announce my candidacy for the state Senate,” Monsignor Quinn said. “If you wonder why I would do such a thing, it’s because even the Jesuits couldn’t match the per diem rates or the pension (of the state legislators).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chris Paige Responds To Petition Challenges

Over at Chris Paige responded to their post concerning Lou Barletta's campaign challenge to Paige's nominating petitions. It is odd that anyone would respond before being served with a complaint. Usually the boilerplate responseby anyone in a similar position is that "I haven't seen the complaint so I can't respond at this time."

Interesting to say the least. Here is some information about challenging nominating petitions from Berks County.

It is also interesting that when Dan Onorato's campaign faced petition challenges this was their response- “Every competent campaign checks their opponents’ petitions and challenges any questionable ones to defend itself.

Bonusgate Deliberations Affecting Jurors

SInce the media in Northeastern Pennsylvania are practically ignoring Michael Veon et al's Bonusgate trial SOP wants to highlight the latest from Tracie Mauriello of the Post Gazette. In this story she talks about the toll deliberations are taking in this case on jurors to this point.

We're turning on each other," one told Dauphin County Judge Richard A. Lewis from the jury box as she and others dabbed their eyes.

"I can imagine it is hard for a jury to announce a unanimous decision," Judge Lewis said. "Juries are able to do that at most times, and we ask that you keep trying."

Jurors are considering 139 criminal charges against four defendants, including former state Rep. Mike Veon, who represented Beaver County and at one time was the second-ranking Democrat in the state House.

Judge Lewis told jurors that deliberation is not about taking a firm stand but about "talking to your neighbors. Sometimes it takes an effort on everyone's part to do that."

The exchange came as jurors ended their 29th hours of deliberations over four days, following six weeks of testimony.

"We're aware of the strain on you, all 12 of you. I'm sure it's a terrible strain," Judge Lewis said.

The jurors did indicate they came to a conclusion against one defendent in the case. However, their deliberations continue.

Chris Paige Petitions Challenged

Over at Capital Ideas John Micek gave an updated list of nominating petition challenges across the state. Among the petitions being challenged are those of Chris Paige from Monroe County who is vying for the Republican nomination against Lou Barletta in the 11th Congressional District. Evidently the Barletta campaign has information that provide the basis for the challenge.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Marolo Works For The Entire Board

Hazleton Area superintendent edict draws fire
By SAM GALSKI (Staff Writer)
Published: March 16, 2010

You can read the Superintendent's position in the article. Basically he demands that all questions by school directors requiring his answer must go through the School Board President. Mr. Marolo doesn't understand that each member of the school board is charged with the same responsibilities. A school board president has no more fiduciary duty, duty of loyalty, or duty of care than any other member. Sam will lose this one in court. Its a shame the taxpayers may have to foot the bill.

Shenandoah Father of Two Killed Senselessly

Two gunmen rob then shoot father in cold blood in Shenandoah

Two More For Luzerne Bench

Two Nominees Receive 50-0 vote in Pennsylvania Senate for Luzerne County Bench

Lackawanna County Up To Bat

As anticipated and announced in previous media stories A.J. Munchak and Robert Cordaro were indicted by the federal government for their alleged roles in bribery and money laundering among a host of charges. In this story that appears in the Times Tribune Joe McDonald chronicles- A federal grand jury in Scranton indicted Lackawanna County Commissioner A.J. Munchak and former Commissioner Robert C. Cordaro this morning on public corruption charges.

Both are indicted on charges of racketeering and tax evasion. Mr. Cordaro faces a maximum of 364 years and a $7.7 million fine if convicted. Mr. Munchak faces 193 years and a $3.25 million fine. Click here to read the indictment.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Do Legislators Per Diem Payments Pass the IRS Smell Test?

In Pennsylvania there is a question whether undocumented maximum per diem payments our legislators draft to themselves qualify for automatic non taxable treatment by the IRS. House Rule 14 of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives allows the payment scheme but it does not supercede IRS rules?

Rule 14
Members' and Employees' Expenses
A member who attends a duly called meeting of a standing or special committee of which he or she is a member when the House is not in session or who is summoned to the State Capitol or elsewhere by the Speaker, or the Majority or Minority Leader of the House, to perform legislative services when the House is not in session shall be reimbursed per day for each day of service, plus mileage to and from the member's residence, at such rates as are established from time to time by the Committee on Rules but not in excess of the applicable maximum mileage rate authorized by the Federal Government. For travel to any location for committee meetings or for travel to the State Capitol for any reason, members cannot receive reimbursement in excess of the applicable maximum per diem rate authorized by the Federal Government. These expenses shall be paid by the Chief Clerk from appropriation accounts under the Chief Clerk's exclusive control and jurisdiction, upon a written request approved by the Speaker of the House, or the Majority or the Minority Leader of the House.

Please read this publication from the IRS.

Do I include per diem payments in my employee’s wages?

Per diem payments are not part of the employee’s wages if the payment is equal to or less than the federal per diem rate and the employer receives an expense report from the employee.

What does an expense report need to include?

The report must include:

· The business purpose of the trip,

· The date and place of the trip, and

· Receipts for lodging (if using the meals-only per diem rate).

The employee must file the expense report with the employer within a reasonable period of time (60 days).

If any of these requirements are not met, the payment is taxable to the employee.

When are per diem payments taxable?

Payments will be taxable to the employee when any of these situations are true:

· No expense report is filed with the employer,

· The expense report filed does not include the date, time, place, amount and business purpose of the expense,

· A flat amount is given to the employee and no expense report is required, or

· Per diem is paid in excess of the allowable standard federal rate.
These per diem payments listed above would be treated as wages and employment taxes are due from the employer.

It would appear that the media and the Legal Counsel for the legislators need to explore this matter further. It is incumbent(just how many do you think will survive this) upon them to provide answers in light of what happened in Massachusetts between its legislature and the IRS.

Per Diems- The Hot Button This Election Season

One hot button issue this election season in Pennsylvania will most certainly be per diems paid to state legislators. The abuse starts with their House Rules. As you will read during the course of this post legislators get to play by different rules than the rest of the state employees.

When legislators passed their rules they made a choice. They most certainly could have chosen different wording when they wrote the rules. But just like parents talking to their children the taxpayers are trying to tell them what is not acceptable. But as you will see the legislators have the audacity to "tell us" what we don't understand. If you are a parent this post will resonate oh so ever loudly. In the next post the IRS will speak regarding their per diem payments. It may be time for legislators to rewrite the rules so they don't owe a slew of backtaxes.

The biggest audacity is a legislator who makes $78,314.00 per year as base pay but tells the taxpayers "If you want me to go to Harrisburg and represent this district (which is the reason I ran for this office) you need to pay me another $163.00 per day to do it, no questions allowed."

State lawmakers make most of per diems
Published: February 21, 2010

Most summers, when the Legislature is not in session, lawmakers still must cover their mortgage payments, she noted. Typically, the legislature is in session from January to June and September to November.

- Eachus, D-116, and his wife, Ellen, own a two-story brick townhouse listed as commercial property with apartments at 225 South St., near the Capitol building.

They bought it for $125,000 on Aug. 30, 2005, and have a $100,000, 30-year mortgage on it. The previous owner paid $82,000 for it at a 1996 sheriff's sale. The property is also listed as a source of income on Eachus' 2008 financial interest statement.

Efforts to reach Eachus were unsuccessful, but his spokesman, Brett Marcy, said House rules do not distinguish among types of lodging.

"He incurs food and lodging expenses so he deserves to be reimbursed for those expenses," he said.

"What you are getting at is whether this is permissible," he added. "The next question is whether it's right. We meet the threshold of whether it is permissible. He's following the rules."

Complete per diem records for 2009 were not immediately available. The latest records cover the period from July 1 to Oct. 9, 2009, which includes the Legislature's 101-day budget standoff, which resulted in unusual summer sessions.

During the standoff, Eachus collected $10,611 in 67 per diems, all at the full rates for lodging and meals.

So the first argument to the taxpayers is that they followed their rules. Its easy to do that when you slant them in your favor. The real question here is not whether the rules were followed. The real question is why did you think that slanting the rules in your favor would not go unnoticed or be tolerated by taxpayers, especially in this dire economic time.

As for the flat rate payment read about the IRS guidelines in the next post.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The taxpayers' costs for per diems would not be incurred if a budget was completed by June 30, as required by law. In the past, the Legislature recessed for 2 1/2 months, starting on or about July 1. They have approved budgets late for the seven years under Gov. Ed Rendell, resulting in some July per diems. But the costs during this budget impasse are the highest since at least the 1970s.

The payments to legislators during the budget impasse "make me sick," said Judy Kandel, 67, a Canonsburg retiree.

"I think since they are getting their pay, they don't give a hoot. They're looking out for themselves, not the people," she said.

The House records cover per diems submitted as of Sept. 8; the Senate records, through Aug. 31. Not all legislators claimed their per diems for the two-month period.

Brett Marcy, a spokesman for Eachus, defended the payments as a cost of getting the budget done.

"These have been difficult times for all Pennsylvanians, but Rep. Eachus and House Democrats refuse to give up until the commonwealth has a fiscally responsible budget that remembers those who need help the most," Marcy said. "We're happy to report that we're very close to finalizing that budget. The per diems were reimbursements for expenses incurred during the course of that work."

Now we are being told the per diems are the cost of getting legislation
finished. Excuse me for a second. I thought getting legislation passed was in your job description. Where does it say that it can't happen unless a per diem is paid? The difficult times mentioned obviously isn't with our legislators. Their base salary is $78,314.00.

Published: November 22, 2009

The payments, called per diems, are collected in addition to a state lawmaker's annual base salary of $78,314. The purpose of per diems is to reimburse lawmakers for lodging, meals and other expenses incurred while being away from home at the Capitol or attending a committee meeting in other parts of the state.

Twenty-five of the region's 30 senators and House members collected per diems from July 1, when the budget was due for the new state fiscal year, until Oct. 9, when the $27.8 billion budget was enacted, according to records provided by the House and Senate chief clerk's offices in response to a Times-Shamrock request under the state's Right-to-Know Law.

The total of per diems claimed is still rising because not all per diem payments for lawmakers have been processed.

If legislators had passed a budget by the June 30 deadline and gone on their traditional summer recess until mid-September, they would have had no or fewer opportunities to collect per diems.

Instead, lawmakers were able to claim a per diem up to $158 per day without needing receipts for much of the stalemate.

On Oct. 1, the Internal Revenue Service established a higher maximum per diem of $163 for the new federal fiscal year.

The founder of a Carlisle-based political reform group is critical of per diems, comparing them to a second salary for lawmakers.

"Under this second salary, they don't even have to pay taxes for the most part," said Tim Potts of Democracy Rising.

Eachus: $10,611

Among the Northeast delegation, House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-116, Hazleton, and House Speaker Keith McCall, D-122 Summit Hill, led the pack, taking $10,611 and $7,988 in per diems respectively.

As lead budget negotiators, both men were in Harrisburg many days during the impasse, including two holiday weekends.

Eachus said it was his responsibility as a leader to engage in the negotiations with Gov. Ed Rendell and Senate leaders and work out the compromises needed to pass the budget. While it took a long time to resolve, Eachus said the final budget came together in the way he hoped by maintaining health care for children, distributing additional money for education and providing enough recurring revenues so Pennsylvania doesn't have to reopen its budget like some states are doing this fall.

"We ought to be able to get through the next two years without a revenue increase," he said.

Eachus pointed out that lawmakers - unlike the governor - don't have a taxpayer-funded residence to stay in when they are in Harrisburg.

"These (per diems) are real expenses," he added. "It's a federally allowable expense. Many people think it's income, but it's not."

It may be an allowable expense if you follow their guidelines. There is also a huge question on whether it is income. Look what happened in Massachusetts. Finally, any legislator who talks like he is "entitled" to something including taxpayer funded residences is no longer representing the taxpayers' interests. It could be said "It's all about me."

Rules concerning per diems need to be rewritten
Published: February 25, 2010

As if any further proof were necessary, some state lawmakers helpfully have added to the case that their flat rate daily expense payments should be eliminated.

Lawmakers from districts outside the capital area receive per diem, or daily flat-rate payments that are meant to reimburse them for their expenses while in Harrisburg. That flat daily rate is $163, the maximum allowed by the Internal Revenue Service. Since the money technically is for expense reimbursement, it is not taxable.

It is an open secret, however, that the reimbursements add to the income of lawmakers who do not spend anywhere near daily $163 on expenses but collect that maximum amount without having to prove that they spent so much as a penny.

Borys Krawczeniuk of The Times-Tribune reported Sunday, for example, that at least five lawmakers from Northeast Pennsylvania - Reps. Jim Wansacz, Todd Eachus, Mario Scavello, John Yudichak, and Michael Peifer - own properties in and around Harrisburg where they stay while in the capital on business.

Yet they also collect per diem expenses that are meant to cover housing.

Some of the properties are mortgaged, but reimbursement for expenses cannot be intended to cover mortgage payments. If the money is used for that purpose it becomes a different animal because it builds the owner's equity in the property and would contribute to his profit when the building is sold. Other costs related to property ownership, including utility payments, property taxes and insurance, are not reimbursable expenses by even an expansive definition.

In some cases the lawmakers can rent apartments in their buildings, and sometimes do so to other legislators. That makes the property a business. Taxpayers should not have to contribute to lawmakers' businesses under the guise of paying their expenses.

All of this is permissible by House rules. Those rules, of course, are written by House members.

Lawmakers who wish to be Harrisburg landlords have every right to be just that. But in order to ensure that taxpayers are reimbursing them for their expenses rather than helping them to pay off mortgages or cover their extracurricular business expenses, lawmakers should rewrite the rules to provide reimbursements based on actual receipts for valid expenses.

The House Rules beg for overhaul. At least one lawmaker, Rep. John Yudicahk sees the light. It is a shame more weren't by his side.

Pa. legislators play by different rules on expenses
Published: March 1, 2010

When it comes to getting expenses reimbursed, Pennsylvania's legislators play by different rules than everyone else.

If you work for one of 48 state departments, agencies or offices directly under Gov. Ed Rendell's control, you have to have receipts to back up expenses when traveling on state-related business.

No state employee can skip providing receipts and still get up to $163 a day for lodging, meals and incidental expenses.

But a state legislator can.

The $163 a day is the federally established per diem rate - $111 for lodging and $52 for meals and incidental expenses.

Legislative per diems have long been controversial in Harrisburg because they do not require proof an expense was incurred. Legislators are eligible for the full amount simply for being in Harrisburg on state-related business.

By contrast, agencies under the governor's office treat the $163 as a maximum possible reimbursement, and employees are only reimbursed for actual expenses when they produce receipts, said Mia DeVane, a spokeswoman for Rendell

Per diems are allowed by the federal government and reflect real expenses incurred by lawmakers, House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-116, Hazleton, told the Scranton Sunday Times recently.

Lawmakers - unlike the governor - don't have a public residence to stay in when they are in Harrisburg, added Eachus.

The House rules on per diems follow the internal revenue code and can cover expenses beyond food and lodging that come from spending three or four days at a stretch in Harrisburg, said Stephen Miskin, spokesman for House Minority Leader Sam Smith, R-66, Punxutawney.

He said any effort to change per diem rules would probably come when the House adopts rules for the next legislative session starting in January.

Per diems rarely used as intended
Published: November 29, 2009

Sen. Lisa Baker of Luzerne County, for example, could have received per diem payments totaling $5,500. Instead, she filed for reimbursement of her actual expenses - $2,083 for lodging and food. Her actual expenses were just 38 percent of the allowable flat rate.

Rep. Todd Eachus, the House majority leader from Hazleton, claimed that the public has a misconception about flat rate per diem payments: "Many people think it's income, but it's not."

What, then, to call the $3,417 difference between what Ms. Baker actually collected and what she could have received from the flat rate?

Well, perhaps Ms. Baker is unusually frugal. But that's another advantage of keeping receipts, as business travelers know. They force you to keep your expenses down.

Credit goes to Ms. Baker and a few other lawmakers who accept reimbursements only for their proven expenses. Their conduct should become the model for new House and Senate rules requiring specific receipts for claimed expenses. The "per diem" rate should be, as intended by the IRS, the maximum daily reimbursement rather than the standard flat rate.

Editorial From WMGH October 8 and 9, 2009





"The House rules are the foundation upon which all legislation is built. Better House rules will mean better laws for all Pennsylvanians."