Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Democratic candidate also serves on election board

Why is it only Democrats get away with this stuff?

A Montgomery County commissioner who was on the ballot April 22 as a delegate for Hillary Clinton also serves as chairman of the county board of elections.

Anyone else see the potential for conflict there? Yet, it never occurred to Joe Hoeffel to step aside temporarily as chairman of the elections board.

Read more in this column by Margaret Gibbons published in The Mercury.

PA GOP applauds Supreme Court ruling on Voter ID

Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Robert A. Gleason Jr. supports the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Monday that upheld the Constitutional right of states to require voters to produce photo identification before casting their ballot to combat voter fraud and uphold the integrity of our elections.

"The Republican Party of Pennsylvania was ecstatic to learn of the Supreme Court's ruling that allows states to run fair and honest elections by using photo identification," Gleason said in a written statement. "Ensuring the integrity of our elections is paramount, and I believe requiring voters to show a form of identification is an important tool in combating voter fraud. Many Americans are made to show photo identification before they board a plane, drive a car, cash a check, or even rent a movie, so we agree with the Supreme Court that it is acceptable to check identification before they cast their vote."

In 2006, Gov. Ed Rendell vetoed House bill 1318 that would have required voters to produce photo identification here in the Commonwealth. Under this bill, voters would have had to produce either a driver's license, passport or other photo ID or even something with the person's name on it, such as a utility bill.

"If Pennsylvania is serious about conducting fair elections, our legislature should pass a bill requiring voters to show photo identification and Gov. Rendell should sign it immediately," Gleason said.

Who's to blame for PHEAA mess?

Pennsylvania's student-loan agency has been run into the ground by overpaid executives who wasted millions of dollars and politicians who were supposed to oversee the operation.

Who pays the price? Pennsylvania students and their families.

Read "State's college students paying price for PHEAA's free-wheeling spending" in today's online edition of The Mercury for more background.

The agency is supervised by a 20-member board of directors consisting of members of the Pennsylvania Legislature and Gov. Rendell's appointees.

Below is a list of lawmakers who have served on the PHEAA board (some for decades) and were asleep at the wheel while the agency's finances were drained by executives.

Hint: Most of the people below will be on the ballot in November.

The following of lawmakers who served on the PHEAA board at the time of the spending scandals: Rep. William F. Adolph Jr.; Sen. Sean Logan; Rep. Ronald Buxton; Sen. Jake Corman; Rep. Craig Dally; Sen. Jane M. Earll; Sen. Vincent J. Fumo; Sen. Vincent J. Hughes; Rep. Sandra J. Major; Rep. Jennifer L. Mann; Rep. Joseph F. Markosek; Sen. Michael A. O'Pake *; Sen. James J. Rhoades **; Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr.; Rep. Jess M. Stairs; Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson.

* O'Pake, who served on the PHEAA board for 20 years, was recently replaced by Sen. Andrew Dinniman. ** Rhoades, another longtime board member, was replaced by Sen. Edwin B. Erickson.

Monday, April 28, 2008

RNC Statement on Supreme Court Ruling

RNC Statement on Supreme Court Ruling

RNC Chairman Calls on Networks to Not Air Inaccurate DNC Ad

RNC Chairman Calls on Networks to Not Air Inaccurate DNC Ad

11th Senate District reformer launches Web site

Republican Steve Fuhs, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Mike O'Pake for the 11th state Senate District, has launched a Web site.

Fuhs, a city council member in mostly-Democratic Reading, is hoping to end the 36-year reign of O'Pake as a state senator from Berks County.

"Career politicans are failing us in Harrisburg," Fuhs proclaims boldly on his new site. "Now, it's time for real change."

Fuhs may be right about O'Pake, who got half the votes of the presidential candidates on top of the Democratic ticket in the April 22 primary.

Fuhs wants to eliminate property taxes, end the tax-and-spend culture in state government and restore integrity to Harrisburg.

Check out where Fuhs stands on the issues at http://fuhsforpa.homestead.com/

Governor Rendell Seeks Nominations for Student Health Care Heroes

Governor Rendell Seeks Nominations for Student Health Care Heroes

RNC: They Said It! Barack Obama's Memory Loss on Meeting Convicted Controversial Billionaire Nadhmi Auchi

RNC: They Said It! Barack Obama's Memory Loss on Meeting Convicted Controversial Billionaire Nadhmi Auchi

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Blame Democrats for rising gas prices

The price of regular unleaded is $3.59 today. Gas prices have skyrocketed since Democrats took control of Congress in January 2007.

Why isn't anyone blaming the Democrats? When Democrats made all those promises in the fall of 2006 about ending the war in Iraq and helping the middle class, the price of gas was $2.62 a gallon.

And if Sen. Barack Obama has a plan to deal with rising gas prices, why isn't he revealing it to us now? Do we have to wait nine more months (until he is sworn in as president) to bring down gas prices?

Read more about the Democrats' inaction over rising gas prices at Save The GOP blog.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Support House Bill 2005 to reduce health insurance costs

Interesting letter in The Mercury from a veteran insurance agent seeking support for House Bill 2005.

Ron Black of the Ron Black Agency in Royersford, Pa., thanks the Pennsylvania House for passing HB 2005 and urges the Senate to do likewise.

The bill levels the playing field in Pennsylvania by regulating "for-profit" insurance companies. If the bill passes the General Assembly and is signed by Gov. Rendell, it should help check skyrocketing health insurance premiums for Pennsylvania workers.

Read the full letter and contact your Senator and the governor to support HB 2005.

'Why Can't I Just Eat My Waffle?'

'Why Can't I Just Eat My Waffle?'

Monday, April 21, 2008

Gambling and property tax relief don't mix

Did anyone believe Gov. Ed Rendell and Pennsylvania lawmakers when they promised substantial property tax relief in 2004 if the state allowed 51,000 slot machines to come in?

If you did, wipe that egg off your face.

Four years after Gov. Ed Rendell and the Legislature promised a pot at the end of the slot machine rainbow, the average Pennsylvania homeowner can expect to see a $169 reduction in property taxes.

Since 2004, that very same Pennsylvania homeowner has been paying hundreds more in school property taxes. In other words, the promised tax relief from casino revenues will never materialize.

Read more about the state's tax relief hoax in this editorial in today's edition of The Mercury.

The only answer to the property tax crisis is the elimination of property taxes under House Bill 1275, sponsored by Rep. Sam Rohrer, R-Berks.

If your local lawmaker doesn't support HB 1275, it's time to elect a new one.

League of Women Voters offers online voter guide

Do you know enough to be a "Smart Voter" in Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary elections?

The League of Women Voters is ready to help.

For example, did you know that in addition to picking your preference for president, you also have to select the names of delegates who will end up nominating your pick?

Voters can turn to the League's helpful Web site, SmartVoter.org for information on how the primary elections will be conducted.

On www.SmartVoter.org, voters type in their address and find out exactly who will be on their ballot and additional campaign information submitted by the candidates themselves, according to the League. You can find out which Democratic delegates are committed to voting for which Presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention and see how Republican delegates to convention run uncommitted, the League says.

After you have seen what is available from the various candidates you can print a personalized ballot to take to the polls with you, according to the League.

Take this number to the Polls: 1-866-OUR-VOTE

If you're planning to head to the polls Tuesday, make a note of this toll-free number: 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Common Cause of Pennsylvania says the hotline will have trained volunteers available on Election Day to:

1) answer questions about polling place locations;
2) record problems with voting machine malfunctions;
3) help protect the rights of any eligible voters who are turned away;
4) deal with instances of voter intimidation and deception; and
5) help you with any voting-related question or problem you might encounter.

The non-partisan Election Protection Hotline, led by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, works with election officials to identify and rectify issues as they arise. It is open to any voter who needs information, assistance or guidance understanding their voting rights, according to Common Cause Pennsylvania Executive Director Barry Kauffman.

"We recommend that you program 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) into your cell phone now, if you have one, so that you'll be ready in case of any problems on Election Day," Kauffman said.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

From the front lines of property tax fight

The Rendell Administration announced last week that Pennsylvania taxpayers would see an average of $169 in property tax relief from the casino gambling law passed in 2004.

It took four years and the best the state can do is $169? Never mind that most Pennsylvania property owners are being forced to pay hundreds of dollars more in school taxes in the past four years.

The 10-percent reduction in property taxes is a cruel hoax on the state's beleaguered taxpayers, who were promised "substantial" property tax relief by Gov. Rendell.

The Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition has compiled real-life stories of Pennsylvania residents struggling to pay their property taxes.

While Harrisburg politicians refuse to act on property taxes, check out "The real faces of the school property tax issue" at the PTCC Web site.

"I think that you'll agree that the stories clearly demonstrate the need for school property tax elimination and no more Band-Aids," says David Baldinger, PTCC coordinator.

Every member of the Pennsylvania Legislature should be forced to read these letters from constituents about how difficult it is to keep their homes under Pennsylvania's antiquated system of paying for public education on the backs of homeowners, many of them senior citizens on fixed income.

The only way to achieve elimination of property taxes in Pennsylvania is to vote out the members of the Legislature who failed to support The School Property Tax Elimination Act of 2007.

April 22 is your chance to send a message to the political aristocracy in Harrisburg that you won't settle for anything less.

RNC Chairman Responds to Democrat Ad

RNC Chairman Responds to Democrat Ad

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Real stories of how taxes are killing Pennsylvania

Check out the TONY PHYRILLAS blog for some perspective on property taxes and a link to real stories of how high property taxes are hurting Pennsylvania residents.

Property tax reform should be the pay raise of 2008 when it comes to deciding which members of the Pennsylvania Legislature deserve re-election.

RNC: Obama Twists McCain on Economy

RNC: Obama Twists McCain on Economy

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Old-man Murtha says McCain is too old

Is there a senility test in the U.S. Congress? That might not be a good idea. People like John Murtha, the 75-year-old Democratic blowhard from Western Pennsylvania, might not pass the test.

Murtha, taking a break from insulting U.S. troops and spending millions in tax dollars on pork projects, is attacking Sen. John McCain's age.

Murtha believes McCain is too old to serve as president, but age does not appear to be a factor in serving in the U.S. Congress. Murtha has said nothing about Sen. Robert Byrd, who is 90 and feeble. Did I mention Byrd was a Democrat?

Murtha apparently plans to stay in Congress until he dies. The 75-year-old is running for reelection to another two-year term.

Read more here.

99 Candidates Commit to Integrity Actions

Democracy Rising PA has posted on its Web site the results of a questionnaire completed by 99 candidates for the General Assembly in the April 22 primary election.

The questionnaire was co-sponsored by Common Cause/PA, the Commonwealth Foundation, the PA Council of Churches, Rock the Capital and PA Citizens for Legislator Accountability, as well as Democracy Rising PA.

"In every area of public integrity, this questionnaire found dozens of candidates willing to pledge that they will take specific actions to achieve higher standards of public integrity during their term of office," DR Co-founder Tim Potts said.

The questionnaire asked candidates whether, if elected, they will take any or all of seven specific actions on 33 different proposals to improve public integrity. Those actions are:

* Introduce legislation
* Co-sponsor legislation
* Advocate publicly for votes in committee within three months of referral to the committee
* Advocate publicly for vote in the full House or Senate within one month after referral from a committee
* Sign a discharge resolution to remove bills from committee and get a floor vote
* Advocate publicly for the specific proposal
* Base votes for leadership on the leadership candidate's commitment to action on the issue

The issues presented ranged from open records and lobbying control, to Constitution amendments on re-districting and lame-duck session, to changes in how PA conducts elections and candidates fund their campaigns.

Candidate Consensus

Responses show a clear consensus among candidates for the questionnaire's proposal to "Enact the highest standards of public integrity in America for public access to government documents in all three branches." This proposal had the highest level of support in six of the seven actions candidates pledged to take. Altogether, 41 candidates pledged to introduce legislation, and 67 pledged to co-sponsor such legislation.

A proposal related to openness and accountability beat open records in one action category and tied open records in another. Thirty-eight candidates promise to introduce legislation to "Require all roll call votes, including procedural votes, to be posted online within 24 hours with links to the language actually voted upon and the final outcome of the vote."

Another consensus finds that on every action category, the proposal with the least support is to "Convert to non-partisan voter registration," which would allow all voters to participate in primary elections without having to declare a party preference when registering. Yet even with a relatively low level of support, nine candidates promised to introduce legislation, and double-digits of candidates said they would take every other action to advance the proposal.

Strong Seconds

Beyond the most and least favored proposals, there is strong support for a broader range of issues. Thirty-six candidates said they will introduce legislation to fix PA's second-worst in the nation system for drawing legislative boundaries, and 35 said they will prime sponsor a bill to prohibit all forms of unvouchered expenses.

For more on the issue of legislative districts, which requires action on a Constitution amendment by June 23, visit the League of Women Voters at www.palwv.org

Fifty-four candidates say they will put their names on bills to "Ban lobbyists from providing gifts, hospitality, travel, entertainment or any other benefit to any public official."

Forty candidates said they will use their power to force a floor vote for a bill to "Provide a monthly online accounting for each legislator detailing the cost of all salary, benefits and expenses paid during the previous month and including the accounts used to pay the expenses." (For more on this issue, click here to see the April 10 edition of DR News.)

Candidates showed their lack of information about, or lack of support for, some issues - all affecting how the candidates would win election and conduct themselves in office - by not responding. At least 60 candidates skipped five proposals:

1) "Convert to non-partisan voter registration." (68 candidates)
2) "Examine whether to continue taxpayer-funded primary elections for political parties." (66 candidates)
3) "Limit the amount of money legislative candidates can raise from sources outside the district they seek to represent." (61 candidates)
4) "Prohibit fundraising events outside of a candidate's or incumbent's district within one week of a legislative session day." (60 candidates)
5) "Prohibit legislators from providing any service to citizens that is already provided by an executive agency under state or federal law." (60 candidates)

Challengers participated in the questionnaire more often than incumbents, 31.6% to 12.4%.

Incumbent House Republican candidates had the highest participation rate, 35.8%.

Incumbent House Democrats had the lowest participation rate, 9.7%.

RNC: Obama's Taxing Trick

RNC: Obama's Taxing Trick

RNC Reports Strong Fundraising Supporting Senator McCain, Republicans

RNC Reports Strong Fundraising Supporting Senator McCain, Republicans

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

RNC: Obama and Clinton to Debate in Philadelphia Over Who Can Take More of Americans' Hard-Earned Money to Fund Their Big Government Spending

RNC: Obama and Clinton to Debate in Philadelphia Over Who Can Take More of Americans' Hard-Earned Money to Fund Their Big Government Spending


There's an updated list of reform candidates for the Pennsylvania Legislature at TONY PHYRILLAS, which again is ranked the No. 1 most influential political blog in Pennsylvania.

The list includes the candidates below. You can find links to each site at TONY PHYRILLAS

* Aaron Durso for 130th House District
* Allen R. Cerullo for 187th House District
* Anne Dicker for 1st Senate District
* Byron Davis for 198th House District
* Chris Voccio for 72nd House District
* Dennis Baylor for 29th Senate District
* Doug McLinko for 23rd Senate District
* Doyle Heffley for 122nd House District
* Gary Hornberger for 125th House District
* Greg Hopkins for 50th House District
* James E. May for 117th House District
* Jason Owen for 3rd House District
* Jim Christiana for 15th House District
* John Schickram for 124th House District
* Lance Rogers for 17th Senate District
* Lisa Paolino for 17th Senate District
* Lon Emenheiser for 95th House District
* Lowell Gates for 88th House District
* Mike Welsh for 132nd House District
* Richard A. Stine for 187th House District
* Richard Gokey for 130th House District
* Ron Shegda for 136th House District
* Ron Shegda for 136th House District
* Russ Diamond for 101st House District
* Shannon Royer for 156th House District
* Steve Kantrowitz for 19th Senate District
* Steve McDonald for 13th Senate District
* Wally Zimolong for 182nd House District

RNC: AFL-CIO's Old School Attacks

RNC: AFL-CIO's Old School Attacks

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ex-Navy secretary stumps for John McCain

It's taken awhile, but GOP surrogates are starting to stump for John McCain.

Former U.S. Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. was in Berks County Monday to campaign for McCain.

Lehman spoke at Berks County Republican Committee dinner and touted McCain's experience in foreign policy and security issues, according to the Reading Eagle.

PA Budget Secretary Says Property Tax Relief Certain This Year

PA Budget Secretary Says Property Tax Relief Certain This Year

'The Audacity of Barack Obama'

For some more perspective on Barack Obama and his latest verbal trashing of middle class, working people, check out the latest Tony Phyrillas column, "The Audacity of Barack Obama" in The Mercury.

Monday, April 14, 2008

PA Democrats silent on Obama's 'bitter' comments

How do Congressional Democrats feel about Obama's recent remarks insulting Pennsylvania voters?

Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Robert A. Gleason wants to know.

Gleason is calling on Pennsylvania's Democrat Congressional delegation to denounce Obama's "elitist and insulting remarks."

"Maybe I am just a small town guy, but considering the elitist nature of Barack Obama's comments, it's not surprising to see that these remarks have drawn the ire of so many Pennsylvanians," Gleason said in a prepared statement. "Having strong religious beliefs and a commitment to our Constitutional rights hardly makes Pennsylvanians bitter or frustrated. In the wake of these remarks, I feel many are going to view Barack Obama as an elitist who goes around diagnosing what he believes to be wrong with Pennsylvanians simply because he is not doing well here in the polls. Americans have already had serious questions about his candidacy, and these comments will do little to ease those concerns."

Gleason continued: "Our Commonwealth should stand together and reject these dispicable comments. I call on U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr. and Congressman Patrick Murphy, who have endorsed Obama and marched in lockstop with him, to stand up for the people they represent over their political friends. Hopefully, Congressmen Jason Altmire, Chris Carney, Paul Kanjorski, Joe Sestak, Allyson Schwartz, Bob Brady, John Murtha, and Mike Doyle will show some political courage and publicly denounce these offensive remarks as well."

According to a transcript of Obama's statements at a fundraiser in San Francisco, he described Pennsylvanians as bitter gun-toting, racist, religious fanatics:
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them...And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." (Politico.com, April 11, 2008)

RNC: The Mask Slips, From The New York Times

RNC: The Mask Slips, From The New York Times

Free political ads paid by taxpayers

Check out this post at POLICY BLOG about politicians who routinely pose with giant cardboard checks.

I'd like to see every newspaper in Pennsylvania agree to stop using these staged publicity photos, which is essentially free political advertising for the incumbents. It's also pork spending by Harrisburg politicians.

"These corporate welfare schemes aren't effective tools for improving our economic climate, and almost no one would defend the all the pork projects worthy of taxpayer subsidy," according to POLICY BLOG.

So far, only one incumbent, state Sen. John Eichelberger has promised never to be caught handing out one of these bogus checks. That leaves 252 other state lawmakers (and don't even bother bringing up Gov. Ed Rendell. He's got a stack of checks in the trunk of his limo.)

Voters should make a mental note of which politicians they see handing out these giant cardboard checks and vote against them. That should put an end to the practice.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

How low can Pennsylvania go?

POLICY BLOG reports that The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council has ranked Pennsylvania 28th in its Business Tax Index 2008 survey.

It's the latest poor showing for Gov. Ed Rendell's Pennsylvania in national rankings of the state's business climate.

POLICY BLOG recaps the state's mediocrity:
* Pacific Research Institute State Tort Liability Rankings - 45th
* Beacon Hill Institute State Competitiveness Report 2007 - 34th
* ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index - 44th on Economic Performance; 37th for Economic Outlook
* Alliance for Worker Freedom Index of Worker Freedom - F (Tied for worst)
Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council Policy Environment for Entrepreneurship. - 24th
* Tax Foundation State Business Tax Climate Index - 27th
* Tax Foundation State and Local Tax Burden - 24th (50 is best)
* CEO Magazine Best States to do Business - 37th (
* Forbes Magazine Best States For Business - 39th

Pope to Pray at Ground Zero

Pope to Pray at Ground Zero

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Secretary Cortes Reminds Pennsylvanians About Absentee Ballot Deadlines

Secretary Cortes Reminds Pennsylvanians About Absentee Ballot Deadlines

Pennsylvania members of Congress fail taxpayers

POLICY BLOG has a list of Pennsylvania members of Congress who received failing grades from The National Taxpayers Union.

Here's a hint. What do the following 11 Democratic members of Congress who represent Pennsylvania House districts have in common? They all received "F" grades from the taxpayers' group.

Here's the partial list.

Murphy, Patrick F 13%
Altmire F 12%
Carney F 9%
Schwartz F 7%
Sestak F 7%
Holden F 6%
Fattah F 5%
Kanjorski F 5%
Brady F 4%
Murtha F 4%
Doyle F 3%

Pennsylvania's two U.S. Senators also did poorly. Democrat Bob Casey Jr. received an "F" and Arlen Specter received a "D"

Monday, April 07, 2008

PA Club for Growth releases list of endorsed Legislative candidates

A leading Conservative Political Action Committee has released its list of endorsements of candidates seeking Pennsylvania legislative seats in the April 22 primary election.

"Pennsylvania voters spoke loud and clear during the 2006 election demanding change in Harrisburg," says Kathryn English, president of the Pennsylvania Club for Growth, adding that her group's endorsed candidates "have the principles needed to make sure the voters voices are carried through this years election."

"Pennsylvania Club for Growth is confident their endorsed candidates, when elected will cast votes based on what is best for the Commonwealth and not on what is best for their incumbency" English said.

Here is a list of endorsed candidates:

Aaron Durso for the 130th House District - "Count on Aaron to be a strong voice against higher taxes" stated English. If elected, Durso said his main goals in Harrisburg would be to eliminate school property taxes and bring fiscal discipline to state government. "Pennsylvania is taxing its best resources, its hardworking residents out of the state," Durso said.

Dave Huffman in the 83rd House District - After announcing his candidacy, true to his philosophical roots, Dave immediately stated he will always say NO to higher taxes and has pledged to support the passage of the "Taxpayer Protection Act" which seeks to hold the line against runaway government spending. As a school board member Huffman has a proven track record of voting against all tax increases.

Lowell Gates in the 88th House District - "A business man in Pennsylvania, Lowell has first hand knowledge of the need to reduce taxes and cumbersome regulations that prohibit businesses from locating in Pennsylvania" said English. "We need more legislators who realize the need to grow the economy and not the government."

Jim Taylor in the 33rd state Senate District - "Jim is the kind of legislator we need in Harrisburg" stated English. Taylor has committed to vote against all tax increases, reform state government and stop expensive benefits that legislators vote themselves. Through out the campaign trail Taylor has stated, "I will never forget that I work for the people; the people don't work for me".

Doug McLinko in the 23rd state Senate District - Doug McLinko calls his brand of politics, "Blue Collar Conservatism" - a phrase that defines a lean, low-spending government that stays out of the way of hardworking families and entrepreneurs. English stated "McLinko believes like PACFG, government can't grow any faster than the growth of our economy in general."

Pennsylvania Club for Growth for the first time is also endorsing three incumbents: Daryl Metcalfe in the 12th House District; Kathy Rapp in the 65th House District and Brad Roae in the 6th House District.

"These three incumbents have continually voted for a pro economic growth agenda for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," English said. "PACFG feels it is important for Pennsylvania to have these house representatives continue to have a strong voice for the taxpayers of this Commonwealth. It is crucial we help keep these elected officials in office as they continue to serve the people and not the special interest groups."

Pennsylvania Club for Growth previously endorsed James May in the 117th House District. "Mays opponent has a history of voting for bigger government and most recently voted with the Democrats for Ed Rendell's $1.2 billion health care plan ... called by GOP leaders 'a tax increase waiting to happen.' If we are to see less government growth and more economic growth in Pennsylvania, we need leaders like James May who will vote against Governor Rendell's big government agenda," stated English.

For more on the Pennsylvania Club for Growth, visit its Web site, http://www.paclubforgrowth.com/

Tax burden continues to grow

With Tax Day looming on April 15, there's an interesting post at TONY PHYRILLAS about how Pennsylvania ranks in the TOP 20 in combine taxes (state and federal).

In other words, when you factor in the income tax, sales tax, property tax, gasoline tax and tobacco tax, Pennsylvania residents pay more than residents of 30 other states.

We can't blame all of this on Gov. Ed Rendell. Only the state income tax and tobacco taxes have risen during his tenure, but didn't the governor promise to lower everyone's property taxes while standing on his head?

And it's not for lack of trying. Rendell has floated the idea of raising the gasoline tax. The governor is also pushing a new tax on electricity and a tax on businesses to fund his "cover all Pennsylvanians" health care plan.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Commonwealth Foundation: 'Taxpayers to Slaughterhouse'

In the wake of Wednesday's report about $17.2 billion in pork projects approved by Congress, The Commonwealth Foundation is blasting the Pennsylvania state Senate's passage of House Bill 1589, which authorizes $12.7 billion for debt-financed projects.

The bill, which passed 47-2, goes back to the House for its approval, the group notes.

You have to hand it to the folks at The Commonwealth Foundation for their consistency in criticizing what the group sees as wasteful spending by Pennsylvania politicians.

Check out The Commonwealth Foundation's take on state spending, "Pork-Barrel Projects Take Taxpayers to Slaughterhouse."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Democracy Rising Marks 1,000 Days Since The Pay Raise

From Tim Potts at DemocracyRisingPa:

Reality Check
1,000 - Days since the Pay Raise of 2005.
2 - Laws enacted to improve government integrity. See the cartoon.
0 - "Best-in-America" laws enacted. See the campaign.
See the full April edition of "Reality Check" on the web.

1,000 Days
It's been 1,000 days since the Pay Raise of 2005, and this could be the last time we mention it. But we have to observe how little state government has done to remove corruption and raise standards of public integrity.

This is especially poignant for those who remember the 1,000 days of President John F. Kennedy's Administration. At a time when the Soviet Union, America's Cold War adversary, had dramatically demonstrated superiority in missile technology, Kennedy announced our determination to "put a man on the moon and return him safely to earth" by the end of the 1960's. He created the Peace Corps and the Food for Peace program to prove that America could use peaceful means to compete with the Soviet Union for the hearts and minds of people in developing nations.

Kennedy also had his failings. The attempt to overthrow Cuba's Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs hurt America's image and strengthened Castro. He expanded America's disastrous involvement in Vietnam. While Kennedy sympathized with African-Americans' quest for equal rights, he did not lead the fight before his assassination as Lyndon Johnson did when he became President.

Back to PA. It's safe to say that voters have done more than their public officials to improve state government in the past 1,000 days. Beginning with the defeat of former Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro that forced the repeal of the pay raise in 2005, voters turned out in higher numbers than expected to replace four legislative leaders and dozens of rank-and-file lawmakers a year later. In January 2007, 56 new lawmakers took office, replacing 24 who were defeated; 31 who retired rather than face the voters; and 1 who left for another job.

Before the 2008 elections, another 25 lawmakers are retiring, and two (potentially three) have been removed from the ballot because of flawed nominating petitions. So between November of 2006 and January of 2009, voters will replace at least 83 incumbents. That's one-third of the General Assembly, creating new opportunities for improving state government.

What has state government done? It ended our reign as the only state, for five years, that had no law to control lobbying. But our new law is weak and does not do what two-thirds of Pennsylvanians want: prohibit lobbyists from providing gifts, meals, travel and other inducements to public officials.

We have a new open records law for the first time in 50 years, but it too is weak. It allows the legislature and judiciary to police themselves, inviting corruption, and penalties for public officials who violate the law are just about meaningless.

Nothing that the legislature has done in 1,000 days gives PA bragging rights for the best that American representative democracy has to offer. Among many other things, there have been no improvements in:

* Changing our second-worst system for drawing legislative districts (see below)
Prohibiting lame-duck session, favored by 82 percent of PA voters
* Making elections accurate, reliable and verifiable as well as leveling the playing field for all candidates
* Auditing the legislature according to generally accepted auditing principles
Revising one of the weakest campaign funding laws in America
* Authorizing a Constitution convention to debate and decide reforms that lawmakers cannot force themselves to adopt

Nor has anything changed to prevent another Pay Raise of 2005. The General Assembly still can suspend the rules to adopt gut-and-replace laws, and they have refused to act on proposals for an independent body to study and recommend compensation for public officials. They are just biding their time.

Something Everyone Can Do

The competition of candidates and ideas is the heart of democracy, but PA's system for drawing legislative districts intentionally stifles competition. This year, the number of legislative districts with no competition in the primary is three to five times the number that do have competition. Unless third party candidates claw their way onto the ballot, half of the House seats and three-fourths of the Senate seats will have no competition in November.

It's just 84 days until June 23, the deadline for the House and Senate to improve how PA draws legislative districts. Make your voice heard now in newspapers, groceries, bars, beauty salons, civic groups, on radio - everywhere that creates a buzz lawmakers will hear.

Another decade of the worst - or the best - system is at stake.

Pork spending and John Murtha

HT to POLICY BLOG on the release of the annual Congressional Pig Book, a compendium of pork spending by your representatives in Congress.

Pennsylvania ranks 31st in pork per capita (though sixth in total pork). Our own Jack Murtha wins one of the "Oinker Awards"
The blog also provides links to the report and how to check where your member of Congress fell on the porker list.

Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty of wasting your tax dollars. Don't vote party, vote for reformers.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Property taxes killing Pennsylvania

High taxes under a Democratic governor and a Democratic-controlled state House are killing Pennsylvania communities.

Read this column in The Mercury about how one community is struggling with increasing municipal and school property taxes.

Gov. Ed Rendell promised to cut everyone's property taxes "standing on my head" when he ran for governor. Empty promises. He promises substantial property tax reduction if casino gambling was approved in the state. Empty promises. He promised property tax relief under Act 72 and Act 1. More empty promises.

The Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives has prevented property tax reform sponsored by Rep. Sam Rohrer from passing.

There are many incumbents on the ballot on April 22 and on Nov. 4. If you want the status quo, keep returning the same politicians to Harrisburg. If you want change, send reform candidates to the Legislature.