Monday, July 31, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Voters are wise to Liberal Lois Murphy

I've polished my crystal ball and I'm ready to make a prediction. Republican Jim Gerlach will win re-election to Congress in the 6th District by a comfortable margin.

Gerlach narrowly won re-election in 2004 against Democrat Lois Murphy. Many pundits are predicting another tight race in this year's Gerlach-Murphy rematch. Not me. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that Gerlach will win by double his margin of victory from 2004.

Murphy is the beneficiary of tons of money from every left-wing political group under the sun, but I have a gut feeling about this race. Murphy's negative campaigning, the only type of campaign she knows how to run, has grown tiresome.

Murphy spent the entire 2004 campaign bashing Gerlach and blaming him for everything that went wrong in the country the previous two years. The voters of the 6th District, which stretches from the liberal Philadelphia suburbs to more conservative western Montgomery, northern Chester and southern Berks counties, are wise to Murphy.

There was a terrific letter to the editor published in The Mercury a couple of weeks ago from a reader who bemoaned Murphy's latest attempt to demonize Gerlach. "I suppose voters in the 6th District should expect as much from a candidate whose only viable position is that she hates Rep. Jim Gerlach," wrote Jillian Nebenfuhr of Phoenixville.

Gerlach has been an excellent legislator. He's intelligent, energetic, responsive to his constituents and genuinely enjoys his job. Gerlach spends a lot of time in his district — not just when running for re-election, which is about the only time you see some members of Congress.

Murphy is old news. She's a tax-and-spend liberal who rode John Kerry's coattails in 2004 to come close to defeating Gerlach, but there won't be a presidential race this year. The 2006 ballot will feature embattled Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, running on a "vote for me and I’ll raise your taxes" platform, and Bob Casey Jr., a 6-foot-tall sleeping pill attempting to unseat Sen. Rick Santorum.

A lot of Democrats will be staying home this November.

Murphy is the darling of feminists and the radical left. A visit to her Web site shows support of every radical liberal organization in the country. She makes Hillary Clinton look like a moderate.

Murphy has no platform other than "I oppose everything Jim Gerlach supports." And another favorite line from the Murphy camp is that "Jim Gerlach is George W. Bush." Unfortunately for Murphy, that line simply isn’t true. Gerlach has shown an independent streak that has frustrated some of the more conservative voters in his district, but if they had to pick between Gerlach and Murphy, Gerlach wins hands down.

Murphy has been trying to portray herself as a reformer who wants to go to Washington to "clean up Congress." But she lacks credibility because she's a lawyer and lobbyist — exactly the wrong person to send to Washington.

Murphy also comes across as a puppet for Pennsylvania's liberal governor, who has presided over four years of massive tax increases and skyrocketing state spending. If you live in the 6th District and you're worried about the federal deficit, do you really want to send a free-spending liberal to Washington?

If you don't want to pay more taxes, why vote for a candidate who thinks government exists to tax people and redistribute wealth? That's the Ed Rendell philosophy of government. That's the Lois Murphy model, too.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at

Sunday, July 30, 2006

103: News from Democracy Rising PA

We are always happy to pass on word from Good Friend and Citizen Patriot Hero Tim Potts from DemocracyRisingPA.

We would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Tim, who along with Eric Epstein and Gene Stilp was honored by
Pennsylvania Common Cause on Saturday with presentations of the CCPA Public Service Achievement Award. All three gentlemen are richly deserving of such recognition. Please visit the CommonCausePA website to see the details.
Democracy Rising PA News
July 25, 2006

In this issue:
  • Tick, Tick, Tick
  • What’s Up with PEL?
  • When a Cut is not a Cut
Tick, Tick, Tick
  • Days since the pay raise of 2005: 384
  • Days until Election Day: 104
  • Roadmap reforms enacted: 0
What’s Up with PEL?
Advocates for greater integrity in state government were stunned last week by the announcement that the Pennsylvania Economy League (PEL) has appointed Rep. Steve Stetler (D-York) as its new executive director.

PEL is an “independent, nonprofit public policy research and development organization” headquartered in Philadelphia. The mission of the business-oriented group “is to promote better government for a more competitive region.”

PEL’s Republican-dominated board of directors looks like every politician’s dream contributor list. But the appointment of a Democrat is not surprising. Stetler replaces Karen Miller, who served as Secretary of Community Affairs under Dem. Gov. Robert P. Casey. The appointment of Democrats to leadership posts allows PEL to demonstrate its non-partisan nature. Plus, Stetler has a reputation as a genuinely smart and nice guy whose family has owned a Dodge dealership in York for generations, giving him a business credential that doesn’t hurt.

What troubles integrity advocates is that Stetler voted for the pay raise, took $9,188 in “unvouchered expenses,” voted to repeal the raise but refused to repay the extra cash, and claims to have given the extra pay to charities but won’t say which ones. As a result, York Daily Record reporter Richard Fellinger writes in today’s edition, Stetler stands to get a $2,000-a-year increase in his pension, raising his pension from nearly $62,000 a year to $64,000.

Perhaps it’s the Philadelphia focus of PEL that explains its apparent indifference to Stetler’s record on one of the most significant Constitutional and political issues of our time. The pay raise never was as big deal in Philadelphia as in other parts of Pennsylvania.

When a Cut is Not a Cut
The skeptics were right. As reported in the July 11 DR News, the House and Senate actually cut their budget for this year compared to last year. Skeptics argued that although they may have cut the budget, they won’t be cutting spending; they’ll just dip into their (our) $180 million in reserves.

Harrisburg Patriot Capitol Bureau Chief Jan Murphy’s Sunday story, (
click here
) quotes Mike Long, a top aide to outgoing Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer as saying, “I think there's an obvious interest in holding our spending as tightly as possible. By spending down reserves, we're not appropriating additional funds.”

The huge reserves continue to trouble integrity advocates. The $180 million are nearly two-thirds of the $297 million in the combined House and Senate budgets for this year. Reserves are unheard of for most state offices. Nearly everyone else in state government must return unused funds to the State Treasury at the end of the year.

Legislators argue that they need extra funds in case the governor vetoes their budgets. But since lawmakers can override a veto and get their budgets anyway, this reason is unconvincing.

In fact, the reserves are a source of mischief. They were used to pay the infamous and unconstitutional “unvouchered expenses” last year. They also are used as part of a system of rewards and punishments that keep rank-and-file lawmakers under the thumb of the leaders, who brought us the unconstitutional pay raise and many other unconstitutional enactments in recent years.

How does spending reserve funds qualify as holding down spending?

Tim Potts, Co-Founder
P.O. Box 618,
Carlisle, PA 17013
Stetler and Representative Steve Maitland are in the same kettle, boiling away. Both took the money and ran, Stetler claims to have given to charity and will not pay it back, while Maitland took his illegitimate money and used it to pay for law school so he could be a better Representative!

Hello? Mr. Stetler, I would wager, claimed that gift to charity on his Income Tax! He has no option other than to return the money, with interest NOW!

Mr. Maitland found out the hard way that his constituents don’t like paying his way through law school, especially without being asked! He has no choice other than to PAY THE MONEY BACK NOW! And don’t forget the interest! I'll bet he claimed the tuition on his tax return, too!

Our thanks, as ever, to Tim Potts for keeping the heat on these thieves. And let us not mince words any more: they are thieves! Crooks! And they should be prosecuted for stealing from the tax payers of the Commonwealth!


We support Russ Diamond for Governor!

We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” -- THE CENTRIST

"It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs." -- Albert Einstein

Remember in November! Before you vote,

Copyright © 2006: “
THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Rick Santorum recognizes the threat

Sen. Rick Santorum is in the fight for his political life. The junior senator from the Pennsylvania, has risen quickly through the Republican ranks to claim one of the top leadership posts in the Senate at a fairly young age.

He has also become a lightning rod for the far left. He is the No. 1 target of the liberal smear machine and is the big fish Democrats want to land this November. A big part of the venom liberals have toward Santorum is the fact that he stands for something. As outlined in his best-selling book "It Takes A Family," Santorum champions traditional American values, the kind that have been under attack by the radical left for decades.

The other reason Santorum has been targeted by the left is payback for the defeat of former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle in 2004. Democrats want revenge. And Santorum, the third ranking Republican in the Senate, has a giant bull's-eye on his back.

The unfortunate part of all this is that Santorum is a good senator. Not only has he done a great job of representing Pennsylvania since 1994, but he has been a conservative standard-bearer at a time when most politicians won't take a position without first conducting a poll. The John Kerrys and Hillary Clintons of the world are all over the map depending on which special interest group is picking up the tab that week, but Santorum has stood his ground, even when it means opposing President Bush.

The most recent split between Santorum and the White House has been immigration. While Bush and many Republicans (including Pennsylvania's senior senator, Arlen Specter) are behind the Senate's "amnesty bill" for illegal immigrants, Santorum voted against it.

One issue that Santorum has never wavered on is the war on terrorism. In a remarkable speech largely ignored by the left-leaning mainstream media, Santorum outlined clearly what the United States is facing if we retreat from the threat posed by Islamic fascists.

In a speech delivered at the National Press Club, Santorum made a convincing case that the United States and its allies are engaged in a World War IV, which is no less dangerous than the two previous two world wars or the Cold War.

"In those wars we fought against European tyrants and their allies, from the Kaiser to Hitler to Lenin, Stalin, and their heirs," Santorum said. "We fought them because we knew that our survival was at stake. The tyrants would never stop attacking until they had defeated us, or we had defeated them."

While the Dean-Kerry-Kennedy wing of the Democratic Party has its head in the sand and the liberal media continues to mislead the American public, Santorum fully understands what's at stake if we lose in Iraq and Afghanistan and allow Islamic terrorists to destroy Israel.

"We are in the same kind of conflict today," Santorum said. "Some say we are fighting a war on terror. That is like saying World War II was a war on blitzkrieg. Terror like blitzkrieg is a tactic used by our enemy, not the enemy itself."

Santorum went on to say that "the threat of Islamic fascism is just as menacing as the threat from Nazism and Soviet communism. Now, as then, we face fanatics who will stop at nothing to dominate us. Now, as then, there is no way out; we will either win or lose."

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were the culmination of a 10-year campaign by our enemies that largely went unanswered by President Bill Clinton, according to Santorum.

"A group of Islamic fascists attacked the United States directly, at the World Trade Center, a month into Bill Clinton's first term," Santorum said. "So why is it so hard for so many Americans to see the nature of this war?"

Santorum answered his own question later in the speech: "I think in part because it makes us feel vulnerable. This is not just happening someplace thousands of miles away. The enemy is doing his utmost to kill us, because of who we are, wherever we are, at home or overseas."

Unlike the "Blame America First" crowd, which includes prominent Democrats such as John Murtha, Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin, Santorum believes we should not be afraid to confront the enemy.

"It is unfashionable in some quarters to speak about the Islamo-fascists, because of the misguided cultural reflex that condemns anyone who speaks critically about others' practices or beliefs. Therefore, we can't say or do anything that might offend Muslims," Santorum argues. "But that's backwards. The real offense to Muslims is to remain silent about an ideology that produces the systemic murder of innocents. Those who refuse to criticize Islamic fascism undermine the cause of freedom of religion because if the Islamic fascists win this war, no other religion will be permitted to flourish."

Santorum is a serious man. An intelligent man with a firm grasp of history. The kind of person we need in the Senate.

His opponent is an empty suit by the name of Bob Casey Jr., the son of the former Pennsylvania governor. Casey, hand-picked by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, is a younger version of John Kerry, but with a lot less hair. Bob Casey Jr. has flip-flopped on so many important issues he could open a pancake shop.

While Casey Jr. was attending a fund-raiser hosted by the increasingly embarrassing Murtha, the darling of the "cut-and-run" crowd, Santorum was standing up for his country by making his courageous speech.

"Islamic fascism is the great test of this generation," Santorum said. "We have an obligation as leaders to articulate exactly what this threat is, and to defeat it. The American people have always rallied to the cause of freedom, once they understood what was at stake."

Leadership is a rare quality. It's what we need to survive as a nation. Rick Santorum is a proven leader. Pennsylvania — and the nation — needs to keep Santorum in the Senate.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Rendell takes credit for everything

The Ed Rendell Propaganda Machine is working overtime this summer.

The news media is bombarded on a daily basis by all sorts of junk cranked out by Rendell's spinmeisters, trying to sell the governor for another four years.

Rendell is taking credit for everything under the sun. I wouldn't be surprised to see a press release soon saying that there have been more sunny days since Ed Rendell became governor.

Just today, we learn from Propaganda Central that "Governor Rendell Says Pennsylvania's Job Growth Remains Strong State Job Count Hits Record in June; Up 124,800 Since January 2003."

Here's how the press release goes:

"Governor Edward G. Rendell today said Pennsylvania's job count rose in June to a new record high of 5,750,100 jobs, bringing to 125,000 the number of new jobs reported since the Governor took office.
The number of new jobs in the commonwealth since 2003 continues to outpace all the other rust belt states with the exception of New York — Pennsylvania's job growth during that period is the largest among other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states.
"Pennsylvania's job growth remains strong," Governor Rendell said. "We are adding more jobs to the economy each month as we improve our competitive business environment. And companies are recognizing our efforts as they invest and expand operations. Along with the growth in the number of jobs, Pennsylvania's unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in June, a full percentage point lower than it was in June 2003.

I distinctly recall Rendell campaigning with John Kerry in 2004 and blaming George W. Bush for Pennsylvania's lousy job growth numbers. So if the job picture has improved so much, shouldn't Rendell be sending a "Thank You" card to the president? Let's be fair. If it was Bush's fault that the job picture wasn't so rosy two years ago, shouldn't the credit go to Bush for turning the economy around?

This is why it's increasingly difficult to believe anything that comes from the Rendell Spin Factory.

On the same day as the nonsense job release came out, we got this gem from Rendell:
"Pennsylvania Governor Rendell Says Record Number of PA Motorists Are Using Seat Belts Seat Belt Usage Rate Reaches 86 Percent."

Here's how the rest of the press release goes:

"Seat belt use in Pennsylvania has reached a record-high of 86 percent - the highest rate since the state began tracking seat belt usage in 1988, Governor Edward G. Rendell announced today.
"For a growing number of Pennsylvania motorists, the act of buckling up has become second nature," Governor Rendell said. "It is very encouraging that a record number of drivers and passengers now understand the simple fact that seat belts save lives."
Governor Rendell thanked state and local law enforcement and other highway safety partners for their assistance in promoting seat belt use. These educational and enforcement efforts resulted in the record level of seat belt compliance in 2006, which reflected nearly a three-percentage-point jump from the 83.3 percent level reported in 2005.
PennDOT estimates with every percentage point increase in seat belt usage, eight to 12 lives will be saved. In 2005, 578 unbuckled fatalities occurred on the state's highways."

Wow. We have Gov. Ed Rendell to thank for seat belts. What a great guy. Did he invent the Internet, too? No, wait. That was Al Gore.

I did notice that Gov. Rendell is not taking credit for the increase in head injuries among Pennsylvania motorcyclists since Rendell signed the bill to repeal Pennsylvania's mandatory helmet law. I'm sure his PR people are working hard to find a way to spin massive head trauma that into something positive.

And Rendell's PR flaks need to coordinate better with Lois Murphy, who is complaining about the Pennsylvania job picture in her bid to unseat Rep. Jim Gerlach. It appears Murphy is living in an alternate universe. According to her ads, Gerlach is responsible for the declining job situation in the 6th District, which last time I checked was part of Pennsylvania. So is the job picture good or not? Rendell says it's up. Murphy, his tax-and-spend female clone, says it's bad. Which is it?

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Russ Diamond: And In This Corner...

I find it difficult to stifle my own laughter. If I were drinking milk, surely it would be squirting out my nose in true slapstick fashion. But laughter is only a cover-up, because in reality, I’m seething.

And what exactly places me in this emotional tug of war? Nothing short of the Commonwealth’s most prominent Republican mouthpieces feigning righteous indignation over Ed Rendell’s latest intended transfer of funds to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board from another department.

"What's troubling is to see them moving it around from account to account, fund to fund without getting the approvals that the constitution states are necessary," the Associated Press quoted Stephen MacNett, top lawyer for the Senate Republicans, as saying.

"Obviously, the governor doesn't think the laws of the commonwealth apply to him," Republican gubernatorial hopeful Lynn Swann told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

HELLO??? Can you say “hypocrite,” gentleman?

Where was MacNett’s constitutional expertise when Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Jubelirer was plotting and planning the infamous payjacking with Rendell and Chief Justice Ralph Cappy? And forgive me, but I must have missed Swann’s appearance at the September 26th anti-payjacking rally on the Capitol steps.

Lynn was so ticked off about the unconstitutional pay grab that he turned around and endorsed Jubelirer in the primary election. And to punish Jubelirer even further, Lynn lent him a few campaign volunteers on election day.

All of a sudden, these guys are defending the Constitution. Are you buying it?

It’s no secret that Ed is willing to consistently violate the PA Constitution. He signed the illegal slots bill, approved the pay raise - to “kiss a little butt” - and now is seeking to skirt our most fundamental law once again.

But in all the things Ed has “accomplished” in the last four years, right behind him stood legislative Republicans, who control both chambers of the General Assembly. And now the rascals are standing behind Lynn - and he doesn’t seem to mind at all.

Blatantly violating the Constitution is not the exclusive domain of Democratic or Republican elected officials in Harrisburg. Both sides have conspired to rip the document to shreds and rob Pennsylvanians of their right to good government. It’s a true bipartisan effort.

I see it in the same light as professional wrestling. Oh, they put on a good show in front of the audience, pretending to be enemies and all that - but after the show is over, they’re all in the locker room slapping each other on the back with the knowledge that they’ve pulled another fast one on We the People.

We can either continue to empty our wallets for this pay-per-view event known as “Governmania” or we can put an end to the charade and take our government back once and for all. Yes, we need to TAKE it back - because if we wait for them to give it back, we’ll be waiting forever.

I’m ready to quit laughing and get down to business.

Russ Diamond is an Independent candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania. Visit his website at

Copyright © 2006: THE CENTRIST; All Rights Reserved.

Tony Phyrillas: Rendell's spending is out of control

Two interesting articles recently crossed my path. One was an analysis of the growth in state spending under Gov. Ed Rendell by the Associated Press. The other was an examination of Rendell's fiscal year 2006-07 spending plan by Matthew J. Brouillette, president and CEO of the Commonwealth Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank based in Harrisburg.

The conclusion of both reports is inescapable. Ed Rendell has presided over the largest spending spree in state history. He has shuffled money around like a carnival shell game. Somebody is going to have to pay for Rendell's out-of-control spending. And, regrettably, it's going to be the beleaguered taxpayers of Pennsylvania.

If Rendell is not stopped — and Nov. 7 is the day to put a halt to his spending orgy — Pennsylvania residents will face massive tax hikes in 2007 to make up for Rendell's runaway spending.

In a recent commentary on the Commonwealth Foundation's Web site, Brouillette points out that Rendell's tenure as governor has been a costly one for Pennsylvania families.

"When Gov. Ed Rendell assumed office in January 2003, the General Fund budget (which is only about half of what state government spends annually) cost the average family of four in Pennsylvania more than $6,731. With the recently passed $26.114 billion 2006-07 General Fund budget — a 7.6 percent increase in spending over last year’s budget — the cost of state government to that same family jumped to $8,400, a 26.2 percent increase in General Fund spending, or $1,673 more, in just four years," he wrote.

The full analysis can be viewed at the group's Web site,

The Associated Press analyzed 20 years worth of spending increases and found that state government expenditures grew by 28 percent so far under Rendell. That compares to a 12 percent increase in Gov. Tom Ridge's second term and a 26 percent increase in the second term of Gov. Bob Casey, another tax-and-spend liberal.

State spending during Rendell's first three years in office increased faster than the national average, according to the Associated Press. Counting the budget for the current fiscal year, which Rendell recently signed, the state's General Fund budget has grown by $5.7 billion, or 28 percent, since Rendell took office in 2003, according to the Associated Press analysis.

Rendell has been funding his massive spending spree by dipping into reserves and taking from the spoils of the $1 billion earned income tax hike he pushed through in 2003 and a host of smaller tax hikes in subsequent years.

Rendell is also looking under his desk for money to fund the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. It seems that Rendell's pie-in-the-sky promise that gambling would solve all of Pennsylvania's fiscal woes is still a dream. He can't even scrape enough cash together to keep the Gaming Board in business while it reviews casino applications.

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Lynn Swann has criticized Rendell for what appears to be a clear violation of the state constitution. According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, a nonpartisan group of government lawyers, Rendell violated the state constitution when his budget secretary authorized a $7.3 million transfer from the Department of Revenue to the state Gaming Control Board.

"Yet again, Ed Rendell is ignoring state law and he is shifting taxpayer dollars to cover our government's operating expenses," Swann said in a written statement. "Obviously, the governor does not think the laws of the commonwealth apply to him."

According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, it is unconstitutional to shift funds between state agencies without approval from the General Assembly. Rendell also sidestepped state law when he signed a budget that will drain more than half of Pennsylvania's "rainy day fund" without complying with the state's requirement for a two-thirds vote by the members of the Legislature, Swann says.

The way Rendell is spending our money, expect a tsunami to hit Pennsylvania in 2007.

Returning to TV and radio

I'll be making a return appearance on the "Journalists Roundtable" program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network. The one-hour panel discussion will be shown tonight (7/20) at 8 on PCN, which is available on most cable systems in the state. Consult your local listings for the channel in your area. "Journalists Roundtable" will be rebroadcast Sunday at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.

If you're near a radio Monday afternoon, tune in to the Nick Lawrence Show on WPAZ 1370 AM, where I will be Nick's guest in the studio beginning at 4 p.m. You can call the station with questions or comments about current issues while I'm on the air. If you're at a computer, you can listen to a live broadcast of the show over the Internet at

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dave Ralis: "Diamond Needs Signatures!"

We have always liked Dave Ralis' Daily Rant. One of the few liberal blogs in the state that advocates reform, Ralis is a constant thorn in the side of Pennsylvania government, exposing the foibles, and graft of the Rendell Administration, and the General Assembly without real regard to partisanship. One could read his blog daily and not have a definite clue as to his partisanship. In essence, he is for the people, a populist with liberal roots. Nothing in the world wrong with that, in fact there is plenty good about it.

We asked Dave for permission to post his latest blog entry as it contained a special appeal for Russ Diamond. Here is that entry:
"What's black and white and read all over?"

Monday, July 17, 2006
Posted 10:13 PM
by Dave Ralis

Diamond under pressure by petition requirement

I like Russ Diamond. He's smart, he's got chutzpah and a sense of humor.

That's why today I devote my blog to his gubernatorial candidacy.

He's trying to do the near-impossible: collect enough signatures on nominating petitions to qualify him for a spot on the statewide ballot as an independent/third party candidate.

Ralph Nader couldn't do it when he ran for president atop the Green Party ticket in 2004. Ross Perot only managed to do it with the help of Democrats.

Under a state-required mathematical formula - 2 percent of the ballots cast for the
largest vote-getter in the last statewide election - Russ needs at least 67,070 valid signatures by Aug. 1 to make it happen.

Right now he only has about 20,000. He deserves a lot more.

If he were a Republican or a Democrat he would only need 2,000 signatures. But Pennsylvania law stacks the deck against free thinking political interlopers.

Diamond helped launch the drive that ousted 17 incumbent state lawmakers in the May primary by organizing
PaCleanSweep last July in response to the pay raise legislators voted themselves and then illegally took it early.

The pay hike/jacking has since been repealed, but lawmakers continue to use the backdoor methods they employed to pass it on other legislation - most recently with a farce of a bill for lobbying "reform."

Russ wants to change that. He hates the climate of legitimized corruption that has plagued Pennsylvania since President Richard Nixon's administration. The lasting legacy of Watergate here is that the state still sets no limits on campaign contributions.

For that reason alone it would at least be entertaining to see him goad Gov. Ed Rendell in a three-way debate, especially given Republican Lynn Swann's inability to connect with already angry voters.

Russ doesn't have that problem. He may
look like a career politician - he dresses the part - however, he's anything but one.

A former musician who opened his own studio, he's hip enough to use the Internet as his primary means of getting the word out. He read blogs and political message forums daily, and even offers RSS feeds on his own Web site. Yet, he is mainstream enough to have been named
Citizen of the Year" by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

To circulate a petition on his behalf,
click here.

Dave Ralis is an award winning reporter, writer, and columnist, who now manages the web content for the Bucks County Courier Times at
Thanks Dave! Well said.

Please help with Russ Diamond's signature campaign. This unfair advantage of the two parties puts an undue burden on any third party candidates.

Russ may be the last chance for you to regain control of your runaway state government.


Support Russ Diamond for Governor!

Support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!"

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”

Remember in November! Before you vote,

"It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs." --Albert Einstein

Copyright © 2006:THE CENTRIST”.
All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

102: “Rendell, Casey and Decker Violate the Law to Save Gambling”

The short version is that Governor Rendell approved it, and State Treasurer (and Senatorial Candidate) Robert Casey Jr. authorized the transfer of money from other state agencies to the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board to fund that agency.

In a recent post here, we reported the strange exchange between a State Senator who was on the Transportation Committee, and Senator Vince Fumo during the last minute budget negotiations earlier this month. We mis-recalled the figure that was discussed, and did not remember the name of the Senator from the Transportation Committee, but he asked Fumo four times if money was being taken from the PennDot budget and transferred to the Gambling Control Board.

Fumo gave three non-answers then stepped forward and said that no money was being taken from PennDot’s budget to be shifted to the Gambling Control Board.

According to an article last weekend in the
Lancaster Sunday News, the startup costs for the move to slots gambling in Pennsylvania, some $36.1 million was to be spread out equally between the new Gambling Control Board, and the Pennsylvania State Police at $7.5 million each, and the State Department of Revenue $21.1 million for a new computer system.

Apparently the board has ‘champagne tastes on a beer budget’! Late last year $7.3 million was transferred from the Revenue Department to the Gambling Control Board.

Article III, Section 24 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states:
Paying Out Public Moneys
Section 24.

No money shall be paid out of the treasury, except on appropriations made by law and on warrant issued by the proper officers; but cash refunds of taxes, licenses, fees and other charges paid or collected, but not legally due, may be paid, as provided by law, without appropriation from the fund into which they were paid on warrant of the proper officer.
When the Republicans blocked consideration of the Gambling Omnibus bill during budget negotiations, it was because Fumo was supposedly going to insert a $50 million loan to the Gambling Control Board from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Hence the gentleman’s questions during the budget debates which were televised on PCN, and reported here as $46 million (see 181: “I’m Mad as Hell!”).

Rendell administration officials defend the practice as “long established” without providing any specific examples. This blogger has seen examples of money being transferred and re- applied within a single department when budgetary shortfalls occur, and it is a legitimate way of reassigning funds to match priorities within a department. But those funds were already appropriated to that department.

This is completely different in that it is taking money specifically from the Motor Vehicle License Fund – a self renewing fund which is built in as a source of funding for the Department of Motor Vehicles – and thus is appropriated money, and transferring $50 million to the Gambling Control Board! PennDot can go scratch to make the money up (fewer pothole repairs next winter!).

The $7.3 million borrowed last year by from the Revenue Department was taken from the original $21.1 million appropriated as part of the initial Gambling appropriations of $36.1 million so the Revenue Department could construct a new computer system, ostensibly to handle all the money generated by the Gambling Control Board. But the $50 million from the Motor Vehicle License Fund has no such connection.

It is hard to imagine where the first $7.5 million allocated specifically to the Gambling Control Board went. They have not completed hiring, they insisted on contracting out background checks when the State Police were already authorized to conduct them (the other $7.5 million!). So perhaps they wasted taxpayer money in such a manner.

We already know that two members of the board have resigned their nearly $150,000 job after a year or so without having really done anything to earn that money…so there is more waste. Additionally, several employees of notable position and status have been arrested for various and sundry offenses ranging from using a badge to avoid a cover charge in a night club, to bar fights, to one person accused of murdering his girlfriend by dropping her from a high-rise apartment balcony.

While we are detailing the sins of Tad Decker, who obviously has mismanaged the Gambling Control Board right from the start, we might mention his public statements claiming the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law does not apply to his agency because they are “…not a Board, Commission, or Agency.” Mr. Decker has directed the board to act in secret right from the start, (except in contact with any potential applicants for licenses!), and has denied the public the right to comment on the plan to create a slots supplier industry in the state. His claim of having already conducted public hearings is absurd on its face, in that those hearings were conducted solely for the purpose of getting public and investor comments in each of the locations where a casino license was pending, and nothing was ever said, or published that said any of the comments would be on the slots suppliers.

We must also not forget Ms. Anna Neeb, hired last year at an exorbitant price to be the Executive Director of the Gambling Control Board. Ms. Neeb may be facing charges that she over-billed her work hours at her last position, which was the same as she currently holds, but in Louisiana (a well known corrupt agency).

Mr. Decker is dishonest, and has broken the Sunshine Law. He may be guilty of malfeasance in the conduct of his office as pertains to the misuse of funds. His hiring practices leave much to be desired. If he hired those individuals who have committed or have been charged with crimes, without waiting for background checks from the State Police (worse, after having paid a private agency for background checks, using funds he did not have), then there is further malfeasance.

Next is Treasurer Robert Casey Jr., candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Senator Rick Santorum. The Republican Caucus in the Senate is considering filing charges against him for allowing the illegal (unconstitutional) transfer of funds.

Finally, we come to Governor Edward G. ‘Fast Eddie’ Rendell. He is Vince Fumo’s right-hand man. Fast Eddie came to office with a surplus in the treasury, and immediately instituted draconian budgetary cuts in most state departments while increasing government spending in a few areas, pushed for a tax increase his first year in office, then had the gambling bill passed unconstitutionally, then signed the unconstitutional pay raise of 2005, and sometime next year will claim that gambling as enacted will not fulfill the expectations and promises HE made, and if re-elected, will demand full table games and probably sports book betting in the slots casinos, and likely will issue more licenses for new casinos starting in 2009.

There are others very complicit in all of this, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, Senators Vince Fumo, Bob Mellow, Chip Brightbill, President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, Representatives Mike Veon and Bill DeWeese Sam Smith, and Speaker of the House John Perzel are all complicit in this whole ungodly mess. All will most certainly meet their makers on Judgment Day with much to account for, as will Casey, Rendell and Decker.

This has nothing to do with politics. This is all about greed. It transcends politics. There are Republicans just as guilty as Democrats, and vice versa, including some who describe themselves as being anti-gambling from the start. Fortunately, their time in office is about to end, the voters having seen through their dishonesty.

We keep telling you here on this blog, that your political parties have abandoned you as has your state government. The above is a perfect example of proof positive that this is so.

This is why we support
Russ Diamond for Governor, and a slate of candidates who have adopted the Roadmap for Reform. Candidates who are backed by Pennsylvania Clean Sweep also.

The more new faces in Harrisburg this January, the greater the chance that government will be restored to you, where it belongs, and not left in the hands of monied interests, like the gambling and health care industries, where it now lies.

Remember in November, before you vote,

A special plea: Please do all you can to have your friends and family of voting age sign petitions for Russ Diamond. Time grows short, and we need this man on the ballot. Visit his petition website at Russ Diamond for Governor, and help out all you can. It's your fight, too, and Russ is one of the White Hats. Oh, and don't forget to sign the petition yourself!

Vote Reform!


Support Russ Diamond for Governor!

Support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” --

“Be steadfast in your anger, be sure in your convictions, be moved by the right and certainty that abuse of power must be defeated at every turn; uphold Liberty as the just reward of a watchful people, and let not those who have infringed upon that Liberty steal it away from you. Never loosen your grip on Liberty!"

“Legislation without representation is tyranny.”

Remember in November! Before you vote,

"It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs." --Albert Einstein

Copyright © 2006:THE CENTRIST”.
All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Rendell's minimum wage follies

Gov. Ed Rendell recently signed a bill raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania.

Rendell said the higher wage will help 420,000 Pennsylvania residents who are earning minimum wage. Rendell says a lot of things that have little to do with reality.

Do you know anyone earning minimum wage? Teenagers working at burger joints are in such demand that they often start at a salary much higher than the minimum wage.

I picked up a Sunday newspaper and looked through the help wanted section. There wasn't a single listing for a minimum wage job. But there were dozens of job ads seeking unskilled help for starting salaries almost twice the current minimum wage of $5.15 per hour.

A pharmaceutical company is hiring assemblers and light packers for $9.50 per hour. A cleaning company is willing to pay $8 to $10 for workers. One firm is seeking packers at $10.95 an hour. Another firm is seeking clerical help at $10. Foundry workers will be trained starting at $10 per hour. Another company is looking for machine operators, material handlers and laborers and is willing to pay a starting salary of $11.50. All this in just one medium-size newspaper that serves one county.

Where are those 400,000 workers that Rendell is trying to help and why can't he point them to the jobs paying $10.00 per hour? Has Rendell considered paying for a subscription to the local newspaper for these folks? It will be a lot cheaper than forcing employers to raise salaries. And why did Rendell wait four years into his term as governor to help these people? Didn't these people need the higher salaries in 2003 or 2004 or 2005? Does it have anything to do with 2006 being an election year?

And don't start with the tired argument that the state legislature is controlled by Republicans so Rendell couldn't get the higher minimum wage bill passed.

When Rendell wanted to raise the state income tax by $1 billion in 2003, he had no problem finding Republicans to go along.

When Rendell wanted to bring 51,000 slot machines to Pennsylvania in 2004, he found plenty of Republican legislators to pass the bill.

When Rendell wanted to raise the salaries of Harrisburg politicians in 2005, he found enough legislators awake at 2 a.m. to get the job done.

Same goes for Rendell's tax rebate plan for low-income seniors that was recently approved by the legislature or Rendell's exorbitant $26 billion budget for the new fiscal year that increases state spending at twice the rate of inflation.

If Rendell wants something passed, he has enough Republican lackeys in the legislature to do it. Which brings us back to my original question. Is there any connection between the passage of a higher minimum wage with the fact that Rendell and most of the legislature face the voters less than four months from now?

Assuming there really are 400,000 Pennsylvania workers earning minimum wage, here's another problem I have with Rendell's plan to help them pay for basic necessities.

If these people are struggling to put food on the table today, why make them wait until 2007 or 2008 to collect the higher wage?

Under the bill Rendell signed, Pennsylvania's minimum wage will rise to $6.25 an hour on Jan. 1, 2007, then to $7.15 an hour on July 1, 2007. But the increase will be delayed for employers with 10 or fewer full-time employees (although franchises of larger chains will not qualify for that exemption). Employers that fall under the new law will pay $5.65 an hour beginning Jan. 1, 2007; $6.65 beginning July 1, 2007; and $7.15 on July 1, 2008.

When the Pennsylvania legislature gave its own members, the state's judges and the governor pay raises of 16 percent to 54 percent, legislators started collecting the pay raise right away. And they took the money despite a provision in the state constitution that says legislators can't collect a pay raise during their current term.

Hundreds of legislators who were making a base salary of $69,000 -- much higher than the minimum wage -- felt compelled to violate the state constitution and collected their pay raise within weeks of the July 7, 2005, vote. The pay raise that Rendell signed into law last year was eventually repealed, but some 70 legislators still refuse to give back the money they took during the four months the raise was in place. In some cases, those politicians made more in four months than a worker making minimum wage earns in an entire year.

Do you sense duplicity in what Rendell says and does? If Pennsylvania workers want to see a real increase in their standard of living, they need to boot out a tax-and-spend liberal like Ed Rendell.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Lessons for Pa. from N.J.'s budget fiasco

The budget crisis in New Jersey has been in the news recently. What made it front-page news across the country was the forced shutdown of the state's casinos, which can't operate without state inspectors on the premises. The three-day shutdown cost New Jersey millions of dollars in revenues and ruined the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people from neighboring states.

I watched the showdown between the N.J. governor and legislature with amusement. It appears Pennsylvania doesn't have a monopoly on foolish politicians. While Pennsylvania still has the worst legislature and governor in the country, New Jersey is a close second.

There were some interesting parallels between the fiscal crisis in New Jersey and what's happening in Pennsylvania. Here's a few thoughts.

Separated at birth

Democrat Jon Corzine ran for New Jersey governor in 2005 on a campaign to lower taxes. As soon as he was sworn into office, Corzine proposed raising the state sales tax by more than $1 billion. Democrat Ed Rendell promised to lower property taxes when he first ran for governor of Pennsylvania in 2002. When Rendell took office, he pushed through a $1 billion increase in the state income tax. Four years into his term, Rendell still hasn't delivered on his promise to lower taxes. Do we need any more proof that tax-and-spend liberals like Corzine and Rendell would say anything to get elected?

Casinos are in control

The casino shutdown ended when the Democrats who control the N.J. legislature gave Corzine what he wanted: a boost in the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent, which is expected to generate at least $1.1 billion a year in revenues for the state. Part of the money will go to property tax relief, but the bulk of it will stay in Trenton for politicians to spend.

The so-called compromise wasn't good public policy. It was the best politicians could do under the circumstances. New Jersey elected officials had a loaded gun pointed at their heads the entire time. The shutdown of Atlantic City's 12 casinos for three days cost the state $1.3 million a day in lost tax revenues.

In the end, the state's $30 billion budget was passed because the casinos had to re-open for business. The casino owners, not the elected representatives of the people of New Jersey, forced the deal. That's the insidious nature of gambling. Its tentacles are everywhere.

In Pennsylvania, Rendell pushed through legislation that will bring 51,000 slot machines to race tracks and casinos across the state. The slots are only the beginning. Once the money rolls in, politicians will expand gambling to include full-service casinos. Rendell has sold out Pennsylvania to the casino industry. The corporations that own the casinos will eventually call all the shots. Politicians cannot serve two masters. The choice will always be between the casino interests and the people. And the people will lose every time.

Any more excuses?

One of the reasons so many Democrats in the Pennsylvania legislature opposed a plan to eliminate property taxes by increasing the state’s sales tax (or decreasing it and expanding the number of items that can be taxed) was the fear that Pennsylvania residents would flock to New Jersey to buy things if the Keystone State raised its sales tax. That's one of the main arguments the Philadelphia legislative delegation (controlled by Rendell) used to defeat the Commonwealth Caucus plan advocated by conservative Republicans. Now that New Jersey has raised its sales tax to 7 percent, why can't Pennsylvania do the same? The money from the higher sales tax could be used to provide property tax relief for all Pennsylvania residents.

Gambling is not the answer

New Jersey is facing a $4.5 billion budget deficit despite 28 years of additional revenues from the casinos. What makes Ed Rendell think that the cure-all for Pennsylvania's budget woes is to open the state to gambling? Politicians, like problem gamblers, are addicts. They become addicted to spending other people's money.

See you on the radio

I'll be the guest of Lowman S. Henry on WHYL AM 960 in Carlisle this Saturday at 9:05 a.m. The interview will also be posted at for a week, and at, which also has the audio available and archives the show. Henry is chairman and CEO of The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research Inc. in Harrisburg and has been one of the citizen activists leading the charge to reform Pennsylvania government.

The Voice of Pennsylvania is a Web site for television, radio and streaming media Webcasts focused on Pennsylvania government, politics, and culture. It was created and is maintained as a public service by the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy ( based in York.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at

101: "Call for Signature Petitions for Russ Diamond"

We mentioned over the weekend that we were taking a number of steps to do our part in the effort to bring real reform to Pennsylvania government and politics. Here is one of those steps: we whole-heartedly support the candidacy of Russ Diamond, Independent candidate for Governor.

As you already know, the two parties have conspired to keep it at just two parties. Republican and Democrat candidates for Governor (Swann and Rendell) needed to file candidacy petitions of just 2,000 signatures. Third party candidate Diamond is required to file petitions with over 67,000 signatures just to get on the ballot in November.

There is a cutoff date rapidly approaching after which no petitions may be filed for the November Election. We ask that you please do your part and help get Russ Diamond on the ballot.

Roadmap to Reform

Here is a release from Russ that lays it all out:


Please return petitions to the campaign on or by July 26, 2006 to:

Russ Diamond for Governor
PO Box 5375
Yeadon, PA 19050-9375

If you have any questions, or you need help finding a notary, please email us, or call the campaign at (215) 821-1156. Please note that your local Board of Elections may notarize petitions for free. You can locate your local board of elections at:

Sometimes your State Representative or State Senator will notarize a petition for free if they have a notary on staff (with the notable exception of Representative Stanley E. Saylor, R-94, who is currently consulting his "legal team" to see if they can notarize petitions. Stay tuned!)

The campaign is required to turn in petitions at the end of July. If you would like to give a special contribution to the campaign for the signature turn-in, please go to:

Thank you for all your help getting me on the ballot.

Russ Diamond
Independent for Governor

Barbara J. Baur, Treasurer

Discussion Group:


Anyone who still needs a petition to sign may download them from Russ’s site. (Download petitions and information here)

Let’s do our civic duty and get Russ on the ballot, thereby giving Pennsylvania a real choice between business as usual with Swann or Rendell, and real reform with Russ Diamond!


We support Russ Diamond for Governor!

We support the Roadmap to Reform!

“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” -- THE CENTRIST

"It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs." -- Albert Einstein

Remember in November! Before you vote,

Copyright © 2006:THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

100: "Latest News from Democracy Rising"

It is always a pleasure to hear from Citizen-Patriot Hero Tim Potts, no matter how depressing the news. In this case, there is some good news.


Democracy Rising PA News
July 11, 2006

In this issue:

  • Integrity Pays
  • One Year Later
  • Underpaid Judges?
  • Tick, Tick, Tick

Integrity Pays
To celebrate the anniversary of the pay raise, the state Senate announced that it will make two internal changes. First, it will end the $600-per-month car lease allowance for Senators. Second, it will require all Senators and staff to contribute one percent of their gross wages toward the cost of their health insurance plan.

Defeated Senate President Pro-Tempore Robert Jubelirer explained that, “We want to be more parallel with what the private sector does.”

In fact, however, the Senate plan does not benchmark the private sector, but is keyed to the contract Gov. Ed Rendell negotiated with state executive branch employees. In the private sector, employee contributions are two to four times the amount Senators and staff will pay.

Even so, the Harrisburg Patriot, which broke the story, estimates the health insurance change will save taxpayers $450,000 next year.

Imagine how much taxpayers can save if the same reforms are adopted in the House, which has four times as many lawmakers, far more staff, and a $650-per-month car lease allowance.

Also, both the House and Senate cut their operating budget for 2006-07by two percent, or $6.7 million, from the previous year.

That’s more than $7 million in savings thanks to voters who are demanding better value for their tax dollars.

Questions for House Members:
Do you support the cost-saving changes in the Senate?

Will you raise the ante by curtailing even more perks such as catered meals (on top of per diems) when you’re in session?

One Year Later
On July 6, anticipating the next day’s first anniversary of the unconstitutional pay raise of 2005, eight organizations hosted a news conference in the capitol to review what citizens have done and what their government has failed to do to improve integrity in public service. Here are excerpts from the statement by Democracy Rising PA Co-Founder Tim Potts:

“One year ago tonight, while citizens slept, the three branches of state government conspired in an act of theft that rallied citizens to say in no uncertain terms that they want change. At Democracy Rising PA, we describe what citizens want as a government that:
· Sets the highest standards of public integrity
· Provides the best value for tax dollars spent
· Demonstrates the clearest transparency, and
· Earns the highest level of citizen confidence of any government in America.

“These are goals that unite the left and the right, the idealist and the realist, the casual observer and the conscientious objector. Everyone, it seems, but those who actually have the power to form a more perfect Commonwealth through their service in public office.

“So we’re not here to declare victory. We understand that while we have pulled a few weeds, we have a lot more weeding and planting and cultivating to do before we can grow the government citizens want.

“But we are not disheartened. Pennsylvania didn’t get this bad overnight. We know that it will take a few election cycles to achieve the quality of government people want, and with each election cycle we are definitely making progress. One Supreme Court justice. One partially repealed pay raise. 30 retiring incumbents. 17 defeated incumbent lawmakers, including three members of leadership.”

On the failure to enact a lobbying control law, Potts said, “Getting a good lobbying control law – getting the best lobbying control law in America – does not take an abundance of intellect. It takes a little bit of integrity, and we’re seeing signs that integrity is beginning to bloom. We will know for sure when we see proposals that focus on the needs of citizens instead of the desires of lawmakers and the convenience of lobbyists.

“In the days between now and Election Day, incumbents will demonstrate what they’re made of by the quality of the law they give us or by their continued failure to give us any law at all.”

Eric Epstein, coordinator of
Rock the Capital, recalled statements by Gov. Ed Rendell and Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy supporting the pay raise. He noted that even though the pay raise itself was repealed, 69 lawmakers – 60 in the House and 9 in the Senate – profited from the unvouchered expenses because they were not forced to return them.

Epstein also noted that even after the repeal, lawmakers got a 3.64 percent cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA. That boosted rank-and-file salaries from $69,648 to $72,187 – not including per diems and other perks that put tens of thousands of dollars more into most lawmakers’ pockets. Lawmakers will get another COLA on December 1 of this year and every year until the COLA is repealed or declared unconstitutional.

Kathleen Daugherty, co-founder of Democracy Rising PA, provided a status report on the “Roadmap to Reform” that advocacy groups adopted in May:
· Since last July 7, no legislation has been voted on in 9 of our 10 initiatives.
· The one voted on, lobby disclosure, did not achieve final passage.
· Score: 0 for 10.

“Today’s one-year anniversary of the pay raise is the perfect opportunity to remind our public servants that we’re watching and, more importantly, we’re educating, organizing and holding them accountable,” Daugherty said.

Read the Roadmap to Reform
click here).

Underpaid Judges?
Last year when PA Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Cappy tried to defend the unconstitutionally enacted pay raise, he made three statements that were, and still are, false according a
Commonwealth Foundation report, “Underpaid Judges?”

The easiest to quantify was the assertion that PA judges are underpaid. Compared to state judges in the rest of the nation, that’s not even close to being true. According to the report:
· PA Supreme and appellate court judges earn $25,000, or 20 percent, more than the average pay of state judges nationally.
· Common Pleas (county level) judges get 15 percent more than the national average.
· This ranks PA judges 6th or 8th nationally, depending on the kind of court.
· Both before the pay raise and today, PA judges are the only state court judges in America who get an automatic cost-of-living increase every year.

Questions for Cappy:
Did you know these facts before you negotiated the pay raise with legislative leaders and the governor? If not, why not?

Do you still believe that PA judges are underpaid compared to judges in other states?

Even if you still think judges’ salaries are low, do you understand why citizens are so upset about the way the pay raise was enacted? How would you approach this issue differently in the future?

Tick, Tick, Tick
With the House and Senate taking another three-month break from session, Daugherty notes that, “There’s not much time left this year for real action on the Roadmap.”
· Session days in the House before October 1: 3
· Session days in the House during October: 8 (one non-voting)
· Session days in the House after the November election when at least 45 members won’t be returning and cannot be held accountable: 7 (one non-voting -- Nov. 27.)
· Session days in the Senate: not listed on the Senate web site
· Days since the pay raise of 2005: 370
· Days until Election Day: 118
· Roadmap reforms enacted: 0

Questions for lawmakers:
What’s the purpose of a non-voting session day as the last scheduled day during lame-duck session? Could it be to give members one last “per diem”?

Tim Potts, Co-Founder
Democracy Rising PA
P.O. Box 618, Carlisle, PA 17013


Thanks, Tim. We will do our part to keep these issues before the voters of Pennsylvania. We urge all our readers to pressure their legislators to move on these issues immediately.

You should make yourselves familiar with the
Roadmap to Reform.

Or, click on the purple fingerprint!

Roadmap to Reform


“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” -- THE CENTRIST

"It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs." -- Albert Einstein

Remember in November! Before you vote,

Copyright © 2006:
THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: A day that will live in political infamy

On July 7, 2005, members of the the Pennsylvania legislature gave themselves pay raises of up to 54 percent in a middle-of-the-night vote taken without prior notice or any public debate. That vote led to an anti-incumbency movement that has claimed nearly 50 politicians so far. Gov. Ed Rendell could be the next casualty.
Has it been a year already? So much has happened. So much has changed. Some things will never be the same.

Do you remember where you were at 2 a.m. on July 7, 2005? Probably sleeping. We know where the 253 members of the Pennsylvania legislature were in the wee hours of the morning. They were voting themselves a pay raise.

We've reached the one-year anniversary of the infamous legislative pay-jacking. The ill-fated vote under cover of darkness would unleash a tempest that would forever change Pennsylvania politics.

Almost 50 legislators have been thrown out of office or forced into early retirement since the pay-raise vote. More legislators will face retribution in November.

If they knew now what they didn't know then, how many legislators would have gone through with the vote to increase their salaries by 16 percent to 54 percent? Not a single legislator spoke out against the pay raise, although dozens would later regret the vote, some publicly apologizing to voters. If they could turn back time, would Republican Senate leaders Robert Jubelirer and Chip Brightbill push for the pay raise knowing they were committing political suicide?

The Republican Party bosses, Jubelirer and Brightbill in the Senate and John Perzel in the House, decided ahead of time which legislators would vote for the raise, reasoning that veteran politicians would be immune to a voter backlash. The vote in the House was 119-79. The pay raise passed the Senate by a 27-23 margin.

It was a rare display of unity between the bickering political parties, who put aside their differences for one night to give each other, the governor and the state�s judges hefty pay raises. That kind of bipartisan unity would not be seen again on such important issues as the Commonwealth Caucus plan to eliminate property taxes, which was defeated by the Democrats.

The pay raise was quickly signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell, who commended the bipartisan effort by state politicians to line their own pockets. Following the script, Ralph Cappy, the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, emerged from obscurity to praise the "enormous courage" of the pay-jackers for their willingness to violate the state constitution by accepting the pay raise early as unvouchered expenses.

Despite the repeal of the pay raise last November, 60 House members and nine state senators continue to profit from the middle-of-the-night pay grab by refusing to return the higher salaries they received from July to November.

The pay raise vote led to the defeat of Cappy's colleague, Russell Nigro, who became the first Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice in state history to lose a retention election last November.

But the arrogant legislators continued to believe that the voters would forgive and forget. The legislators gave themselves a smaller pay raise late in 2005 in the form of a cost-of-living increase that brought the base salary of a Pennsylvania legislator from $69,000 to $72,000, second only to California.

The voters struck back again in May when 17 incumbent legislators -- including Brightbill and Jubelirer -- were thrown out of office in the primary. Fifteen of the 17 defeated candidates voted for the pay raise. By this time, voter anger wasn't fueled just by the pay raise. The unwillingness of the legislature and Rendell to come up with meaningful property tax relief played a big role in the clean sweep.

And speaking of clean sweep, the pay raise spawned a nonpartisan reform movement that has attracted national attention. Within days of the July 7 pay-jacking, Russ Diamond, a little-known businessman from Lebanon County scraped together enough money to start a Web site to protest the pay raise. The site, www.pacleansweep, would fuel the anti-incumbent movement for an entire year.

Nearly 600 Pennsylvania residents ran in the May primary, many drawn into politics for the first time by Operation Clean Sweep. Thirty-five PaCleanSweep-supported candidates won contests in the May 16 primary. More than 100 incumbent legislators will face general election challengers this November. Russ Diamond is working on an independent run for governor.

Many of the leaders of the citizen reform movement marked the one-year anniversary with a gathering Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg. Among those attending were Andrea Stalnecker of PACleanSweep, Tim Potts and Kathleen Daugherty of Democracy Rising PA, Eric Epstein of Rock the Capital, John Kennedy of the Commonwealth Foundation, Richard Schirato of Pennsylvania Citizens for Legislator Accountability, Sandra Christiansen of Common Cause/PA, Gene Stilp of Stop the Illegal Legislative Pay Raise, Sandra Strauss of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches and Chris Lilik of the Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania.

The reform leaders concluded during the news conference that very little has changed in Pennsylvania politics. These courageous citizen activists shouldn't sell themselves short. They've planted the seeds of reform. It may take years, but those seeds will blossom into a revolution.

Despite the millions of dollars from lobbyists and special interests, the 253 members of the legislative elite and a mediocre governor can't hold back the tide of millions of angry Pennsylvania residents who demand a better government.

Tony Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at

Friday, July 07, 2006

99: "I'm Mad as Hell!"

Here is the thing. I am not an extreme right wing conservative. I am a moderate conservative, but socially and just left of center. I do not approve of gay marriages, but I have no problem with same sex unions, just don’t call them marriages, no matter what form any ceremonies may take.

I am against big government, and believe that government’s second responsibility after protecting the common weal of the people, is to make itself smaller, and less obtrusive.

I am against social engineering by legislation. [This does not conflict with my views on marriage – civil unions do not infringe on the rights of traditional married couples, nor do they supersede traditional marriages…in other words, there is room in society for such unions, and apparently a need for them as well.]

That established, I have to tell you all I am mad as Hell about the state of politics in Pennsylvania.

In the previous essay, we indicated how long the Gambling Control Board would be sucking funds from other state department’s funds before they even turned a dime. Let’s explore this a bit farther. On the night the budget was passed, the House passed it and sent it to the Senate about mid-evening. During the debate, one senator, apparently someone on the Transportation Committee, questioned Senator Vince Fumo repeatedly about $45 million coming out of the Department of Transportation’s funding as a loan to the Gambling Control Board for operating expenses! This senator, who’s name escapes me, was pretty long-winded, and asked the question of Fumo several times, and Fumo dodged it each time, before finally coming out and saying that no money was coming out of the PennDot budget. [A great relief to me, as Pennsylvania has, without a doubt, the absolutely worst roads in the United States.] What he did not say was if money was being shifted from somewhere else to the Gambling Control Commission.

The senator then proceeded to talk some more and then simply dropped the subject. Now, it occurs to me that this was happening while some backroom arm-twisting was going on to get a bunch of Republicans to stop the budget –- for a while – but what a curious topic to raise when stalling the budget vote!

One then begins to wonder just where the appropriations are for the Gambling Control Commission and what their appropriation is for the fiscal year.

One then wonders if the $45 million is coming out of some other Department’s budget?

Other questions begin to rise from this exchange:

How long has this been going on?

What other programs have been so funded by “robbing Peter to pay Paul, and hiding it from the public”?

How is this money repaid to the departments from which it is “borrowed”, or is it?

Does this not amount to hiding appropriations?

Finally, why, if the Rendell administration will likely end its first (and hopefully only) term with well over a $1 billion in excess revenues, would any agency be forced to borrow from another?

The odor from the Capitol is bad enough in normal times, but this is really starting to become a nauseating stench. And at the heart of it is Senator Vince Fumo, the minority chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee!

Now, there is more about these events surrounding the passage of the budget. Fumo would have you believe that there was a deal to discuss and pass the omnibus gambling bill that night with the passage of the budget. When the Republicans dug in their heels and rejected the budget, Republican President Pro Tempore Bob Jubelirer, a lame duck ousted from office in the Primary over his arrogance and Pay Raise antics, apparently led the revolt, saying there was no promise to discuss or pass the omnibus gambling package.

Now Jubelirer, who has always claimed he opposed the gambling act, would not discuss a bill which would do three things (at least): remove the ability for legislators to have partial ownership in any casino venture, do away with the second tier bureaucracy of the gambling act which mandated that all the casinos in Pennsylvania had to buy slots from Pennsylvania owned distributors, and block the approval of a casino license in Adams County, an amendment that passed the house unanimously.

I would note that Jubelirer has never offered to bring forth a bill seeking the repeal of the gambling act, or even a roll back to Racinos only.

On the other side, Fumo wanted to discuss and submit the omnibus bill to a vote probably to kill it completely. Fumo was one of the prime movers of Rendell’s gambling package.

This odd couple exchange, which was reported on several blogs as being ‘heated’, was referred to by Fumo in the press the next day, while Jubelirer was silent.

I guess you don’t cross Vince Fumo without paying a price. Fumo has the luxury of time on his hands. The legislature does not return to session until the last week of September, barely a month before the election. He has time to line up his ducks in a row and shoot the package down. Jubelirer, who has played ball with Rendell and Fumo for the past four years will be loathe to stop him.

If Jubelirer has any spine left after all these years sticking it to the Republicans of this Commonwealth, and to all the citizens of Pennsylvania for that matter, he could bring a bill to the floor that would repeal, roll back, or at least place a moratorium on the issuance of licenses. That would, however, require Jubelirer to strong-arm John Perzel, Speaker of the House, to get Paul Clymer’s repeal and or moratorium bills passed in the house for movement to the Senate. That will be tough seeing as how Perzel is literally Rendell’s ‘right’-hand man.

Like I said, I’m mad as Hell about the state of the state! There are a bunch of crooks that we have elected to office because we placed our trust in the Republican and Democratic State Committees, while they were selling us out to the monied interests.

I know what I’m going to do about it. Do you know what you are going to do about it?

Tune in tomorrow to get those answers!


“Kick the hubris out of Harrisburg!” -- THE CENTRIST

"It is the duty of every citizen according to his best capacities to give validity to his convictions in political affairs." -- Albert Einstein

Remember in November! Before you vote,

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THE CENTRIST”. All Rights Reserved.