Posts Tagged philadelphia

Budget Battle Ends With Electoral Dud


The final pieces of legislation ending Pennsylvania’s longest budget stalemate fell into place just days before the April primary election. And the story that dominated state news for over nine months had no apparent impact on voters who meted out no electoral punishment for the fiscal fray that had school districts on the cusp of closing, nonprofits cutting services, and politicians at each other’s throats.

This budget stand-off was different from those that took place during the Rendell era notably due to the lack of public pressure placed on Governor Wolf and the legislature.  There were no daily protests on the capitol steps. State employees did not go without pay.  When the battle commenced last summer Governor Wolf’s first salvo was an attack ad campaign. It fell flat. Outside the halls of state government and the few remaining news media that cover it, the budget battle went largely unnoticed.

Despite Governor Wolf’s threats of electoral retribution, lawmakers did not pay a political price for engaging in the budget battle.  The first clue that the fiscal free-for-all was not impacting the electorate came in February when there was no wave of candidates filing to oppose incumbent legislators.  Looking at the primary election results it would be difficult if not impossible to point to a single lawmaker who lost his or her seat because of the sustained budget stand-off.

In fact few lawmakers lost for any reason.  And those that did lose were a result of local political divisions rather than anything that happened in Harrisburg.  In Philadelphia, for example, Democrats engaged in their biannual exercise of primary fratricide.  The state’s longest serving House member – State Representative Mark Cohen – was defeated by a challenger who claimed he had been in office too long and was out of touch with his constituents.

Another rare defeat of a House incumbent took place in Lackawanna County where State Representative Frank Farina lost to former legislator Kevin Haggerty.  The two former colleagues found their districts merged in redistricting a couple of years ago and have been battling over the seat ever since.

While voters were busy returning incumbents to office some lawmakers even got a promotion.  State Representative Mike Regan ran for and won the Republican nomination to replace outgoing state Senator Pat Vance in Cumberland County.  In what was a hard fought and nasty campaign the budget crisis did not register as a key issue.

For Republicans looking to hold onto historic majorities in both the Senate and the House the future looks bright.  Senate Republicans could actually achieve a veto proof majority as the fall battles will be fought over swing seats currently occupied by Democrats.  On the House side, the primary yielded solid GOP nominees for open seats like Dawn Keefer in Cumberland County and Frank Ryan in Lebanon County.  Conversely, Democratic retirements in western Pennsylvania provide the opportunity for additional Republican pick-ups in an area already trending toward the GOP.

Further evidence of the impotence of the state budget battle on the electoral process can be found in the race for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.  Governor Wolf’s first chief of staff, Katie McGinty, was one of the prime architects of the budget proposal that triggered the lengthy stand-off.  She resigned last summer to run for the U.S. Senate and prevailed against three opponents in the primary.

Why did the epic budget battle fall so flat with voters?  Chalk it up to a lack of attention being focused on state government.  Or the fact the absence of a state budget had little impact on the daily lives of Pennsylvanians.  Timing was also a factor.  With the nation transfixed by the presidential race scant coverage has been afforded other matters.

And so we find ourselves back to where we began.  Another budget season is underway in Harrisburg.  Governor Wolf is pushing for more spending and higher taxes, Republicans are adamant in their refusal.  The fight will continue, apparently without consequence for anyone involved.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Time to Move the PA Presidential Primary


The 2016 Presidential race has officially begun.  Over the past couple of weeks Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton have formally announced their candidacies. The field of Republican candidates likely will total a dozen or more.  Hillary Clinton’s early stumbles make the entry of former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley more likely.

With no incumbent president in the race, voters in both the Republican and Democratic primaries will actually have a choice in 2016.  It is a contest voters in Pennsylvania will likely watch from the sidelines.  By the time our state’s late April primary is held results of primaries and caucuses elsewhere will have determined the eventual nominees.

Only one time in recent years, 2008, has the Pennsylvania primary actually mattered.  That year Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama battled for the Democratic nomination until June before Mrs. Clinton conceded.  Democrats had a choice, but John McCain had been ordained the GOP nominee months earlier.

Every four years the debate begins anew about Pennsylvania’s lack of clout in the presidential nominating process owing to the lateness of its primary.  And, every four years absolutely nothing is done to correct the problem.

Pennsylvania is the sixth largest state in the nation.  More so than perhaps any other state we are a microcosm of the nation as a whole.  With Philadelphia we have a large eastern city, while Pittsburgh has more of a mid-western orientation.  We have large, thriving suburbs and expansive rural areas.  Our population is diverse. Statewide elections in Pennsylvania tend to be competitive with both parties having shown recent success.

An early primary in Pennsylvania would be a much more accurate indicator of voter preference than Iowa or New Hampshire which are smaller and less diverse.  Those two states lead off the balloting in late January.  February 2nd is shaping up as a mini “Super Tuesday” with New York, Minnesota, Colorado and Utah holding primaries on that date.  It would be an ideal time for primary voters in Penn’s Woods to go to the polls and give us a real say in the nomination process. Instead, nearly three more months and 24 other states will hold primaries or caucuses before Pennsylvanians vote. All of this means Keystone state voters will have virtually no say in which candidates the parties nominate.

Making matters worse, Pennsylvania’s presidential primaries are essentially beauty contests in that the outcome of the balloting has little or no impact on the selection of delegates to the party nomination conventions.  Delegates are selected in separate elections, and/or by party state committees meaning presidential candidates must line up slates of delegate candidates months before the primary. This is a process they tend to by-pass in favor of focusing their efforts on the early primary and caucus states.

Moving Pennsylvania’s primary to an earlier date poses a logistical challenge.  It would require holding a separate primary in February for presidential balloting and a regular primary in May for selecting congressional and legislative nominees. Or, the entire process could be moved from April to February. Holding two primaries would increase costs, while holding congressional and legislative elections in February would advance the start of the process into the previous year’s holiday season.

The cost of an additional primary must be weighed against the economic benefits it would generate.  New Hampshire public radio, based on a study of the 2000 presidential primary when both party nominations were up for grabs, estimated the economic impact at $230 million. The economic benefits to Pennsylvania, a much larger state, would be significantly higher.

Dollars aside, the major drawback to Pennsylvania’s late presidential primary is the absence of our voters having any real say in the selection of party nominees.  We are a large state and we deserve better, but it is a problem nobody in Harrisburg seems willing to address.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited

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PA Dems Flounder on Shoals of Corruption


There are two ways to remove a Band-Aid; in one sharp motion getting the pain over quickly, or pulling it off slowly allowing the pain to linger.  Democrats in Pennsylvania appear to subscribe to both approaches when it comes to dealing with the misdeeds of their statewide elected officials.

 

Former State Treasurer Rob McCord abruptly resigned from office in late January revealing he was going to plead guilty to charges that he attempted to extort campaign funds from companies interested in doing business with the state.  The crimes occurred while McCord was battling now-Governor Tom Wolf for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last spring.

 

The McCord denouement came swiftly.  In a town that leaks like a sieve, there was surprisingly little advance rumor of the charges; news of which McCord broke himself.  The former treasurer spared the commonwealth the usual drama which surrounds such things by accepting responsibility for his actions and promptly leaving office.  He has now disappeared from the headlines.

 

And then there is the case of Kathleen Kane.  The term “embattled” is appended to virtually every news article written about the attorney general who is currently under investigation by the Montgomery County District Attorney for allegedly leaking secret grand jury information.  Charges have been recommended by that grand jury and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled the process legal and correct.

 

Suffice it to say General Kane is in hot water.  As if that were not enough, news broke that she scuttled an investigation into a northeastern Pennsylvania casino probe.  And, the Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has successfully prosecuted another investigation Kane dropped involving several Philadelphia legislators who allegedly took bribes.  This, along with a revolving door among her top staffers has produced an agency in crisis and an attorney general in political peril.

 

Unlike McCord, Kane is fighting back.  She has hired big guns associated with her political patrons, Bill and Hillary Clinton, refuses to resign and plans to fight any criminal charges which may be filed against her.

This could not be worse news for Pennsylvania Democrats.  The party can ill afford going into a major election year with the state’s highest elected law enforcement official under a cloud, or possibly under indictment.  Add in the McCord misfire, along with the Philadelphia legislator scandal, and what you have is the image of a political party steeped in corruption.

Already the steady stream of negative headlines is having an effect.  In just the last couple of weeks Democrats lost a special election for a legislative seat in Philadelphia, something that hasn’t happened in decades.  A Quinnipiac University poll shows Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey leading likely Democratic challenger Joe Sestak by double digits.  The poll even found U.S. Senator Rand Paul leading presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton by one point.  And, the poll was taken before Senator Paul’s official announcement of candidacy which likely will give him a further bounce.

Clearly the scandals surrounding Pennsylvania Democrats could have national implications.  Pat Toomey has been listed as one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election next year, if only because of the large Democratic voter registration lead in Pennsylvania.  But, to date, he has overcome that edge.  And, there is absolutely no plausible mathematical formula for Democrats to win the White House in 2016 without carrying Pennsylvania.

It remains to be seen whether or not Republicans will be able to take advantage of the culture of corruption surrounding state Democrats.  But one thing is for sure, the slow removal of the Kane Band-Aide ensures the issue will remain alive for the foreseeable future.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org)

 

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Tough Love


Would you invest in a business whose product failed 80% of the time?  If so, you might want to contribute money to the City of Philadelphia School District where, according to the Commonwealth Foundation, studies show that percentage of students cannot read or do math at grade level.

In what has become an annual tradition fiscal hysteria is radiating out from the City of Brotherly Love with predictions of dire consequences for the local populace if Harrisburg does not pony up more dollars. The annual crisis seems to swing back and forth between trains and subways will stop running if more money isn’t allocated to mass transit, or schools won’t open without additional funding.

This is the year for schools.

Once again the mismanagement which runs rampant throughout the Philadelphia city school system has resulted in a beginning of the school year budget crunch that has administrators claiming hundreds of teachers will be laid off if the state legislature does not approve a new revenue stream.  Bureaucracies looking for more money always cut first that which will inflict the most pain to gin up a public outcry. That is why teachers, not administrators and support staff, are on the chopping block.

The imminent start of the school year comes as no surprise to anyone, it is as predictable as Philadelphia funding crises, yet the highly paid administration of the school system failed to make the tough budget decisions necessary to begin the new term on time and on financially solid footing.  Instead, they assumed Harrisburg would once again – as it always does – come up with the money for them.

This year’s scheme to fund the failing schools involved levying an additional $2.00 per pack tax on cigarettes sold in the city.  Philadelphia lawmakers dutifully spun a tale of dire consequences without the new funding and almost managed to get it enacted.  But, the bill hit a bump in the road and the legislature left town for a summer vacation that will last until well after the new school year begins.

After a planned rare August session of the state house fell through, Philadelphia’s city schools were left hanging.  And so the cries of woe rang out from the banks of the Delaware River.  Governor Tom Corbett, facing an uphill re-election battle, rode to the rescue by delivering budgeted state dollars early, thus allowing schools to open on time.

But should the governor have done that?  And should the general assembly approve the cigarette tax?  The other 499 school districts in Pennsylvania all will start the school year on time. They too have faced budget challenges and managed to get the job done without running to Harrisburg for special taxes.  Like a spoiled teenager who constantly wrecks the family car, perhaps the time has come to take the keys away from Philadelphia city schools.

The bottom line is Philadelphia’s city school system does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.  The Commonwealth Foundation reports that revenue in the school district has increased by more than $1 billion since the 2002-2003 school year.  Per pupil spending has jumped 21% in inflation-adjusted dollars during that time frame.  And here is the kicker: enrollment has dropped by 25% while the teaching staff has increased 6%.

Not only has the school district continued its profligate spending, but like most school districts it has resisted the types of structural change needed to bring both fiscal stability and academic success to public education.  Philadelphia’s lawmakers, while extending their hands for more tax dollars universally refuse to back pension reform so the single biggest cost driver can be brought under control.  The city is hostile to charter and cyber charter schools which would provide a pathway out of a failed public school system for many students.

It is now time for some tough love.  So long as Harrisburg is willing to bail them out, Philadelphia city schools will constantly be asking for more money.  The governor and the general assembly should require them to make needed structural reforms before giving them another cent in revenue.  Otherwise, the summertime saga of more money for Philadelphia will continue to be an annual rite.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.) 

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Time to Teach Philly ‘How to Fish’


Once again it’s budget time and Philadelphia is asking the State Legislature for a fish. It’s about time that the legislature teaches them how to fish.

This year the problem is the schools. The problem is real. The current School District budget would be catastrophic for the city and, most importantly, the children.

The problems, however real, are not new or unpredictable. An aside, I was recently helping to move the Republican City Committee offices and found an article from a series that The Philadelphia Inquirer did entitled “The Shame of our Schools.” It was dated 1981.

Remember how we got into this mess. Philadelphia’s problems with its schools are due to its being one of the poorest cities in America. That didn’t happen by accident. Choices were made that drove businesses, jobs and taxpayers out of the city. Our poverty is directly related to high tax rates, irrational tax structure, corruption, mismanagement and misplaced spending priorities. There was no natural catastrophe. There was no plague. Politicians made decisions, sometimes out of a failure to understand the consequences of their actions, but more often to pander to special interest groups as a reward for past or anticipated electoral support. It’s really just that simple.

Getting out of this is also simple. Reverse the bad choices. Lower tax rates, reform the tax structure, eliminate corruption and mismanagement and spend only on core municipal functions: public safety, public education, sanitation and maintenance of the infrastructure. Simple does not mean easy. It will be painful, but it couldn’t be as bad as the misery that poverty has brought us.

It is reported that some of the ideas to “help” Philadelphia are things like allowing the City to place a $2-per-pack tax on cigarette sales and extending Philadelphia’s “temporary” 1% sales tax, which is supposed to expire at the end 2014.
These are not solutions to the problem.

Let’s look at the cigarette tax. They are thinking about giving Philadelphia’s City Council additional taxing authority. Think about that. Giving Philadelphia’s City Council additional taxing authority??!!! How’s that worked out in the past? Both the cigarette tax and the sales tax will drive sales out of Philadelphia and not all of it goes to Pennsylvania suburbs. Every dollar that goes to Jersey, Delaware or the Internet means that Pennsylvania loses more tax revenue than Philadelphia loses. Who exactly does this help? How about this? If the legislature thinks that the policy is such a good idea, such as the cigarette tax, why don’t they let every municipality in the state do the same thing? I didn’t think so. But if it is bad policy to allow the tax statewide, how is it good for Pennsylvania to allow Philadelphia an exception?

If the legislature wants to help Philadelphia, allowing it to shoot itself in the foot by raising taxes is not the way. Any funding for the schools should be contingent on positive change.

The School District should be required to hire, fire, promote and assign teachers based on what is in the best interests of the children, not seniority.

The School District closed 23 schools and deserves credit for that. It was traumatic. The problem is, they probably should have closed another 25-30, but did not want to expend the political capital. There are still too many under-capacity schools. The School District should be required to close schools and re-draw catchment areas so each school operates at approximately 85% of capacity.

The School District has been trying to restrict charter schools from expanding. This is despite the fact that the amount of money it turns over to the charter schools for each child enrolled is less than what it costs to educate children in the School District operated schools. The School District should only be able to restrict the creation and expansion of charter schools based only on how well they are teaching our children, not funding. If more parents choose charter schools, the School District can close even more schools and concentrate the money on educating fewer children.

Philadelphia needs and wants help. That being said, allowing it to increase taxes on itself to drive more business and taxpayers out does much more harm than good.

 J. Matthew Wolfe is a former Deputy Attorney General and the

Chairman of the University City Republican Committee in West Philadelphia.

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The Inhumane Side of Forced Unionism


By Jennifer Stefano

There’s not person alive on the Right that doesn’t want to see “Right to Work” passed this year in Pennsylvania…

But too often, those of us committed to ending the abuses of union bosses and their cronies….forget to take the time to explain what “Right to Work” really means —

Our opposition – the Union Bosses – call Right to Work a form of union busting. Wrong. Union Busting is what a bunch of union guys did to the Quaker Meeting House in Philadelphia just a few weeks ago…when they burned part of it to the ground because the Quakers had the audacity to take the lowest price bid on renovations…the lowest bid NOT being a union shop. That “union-busting” or “busting by the unions” cost the peaceful, non-violent, pacifist Quakers more than $500,000 in damages. They must be thanking God the damages were in building material and not in lives…

Although – lives are up for grabs in the world of Union Bosses willing to go to any length to stop non-union workers from having a fair shot at putting food on their table.

In Philadelphia — union workers were caught – ON CAMERA – crushing a non-union worker behind a gate – as he tried to cross their picket line and get into work on his construction job. You can see clearly on the video the man…someone’s husband, father…brother…son….screaming out in agony….then you see him slump to the ground – motionless – as the union members laugh and callously walk away…

Since when did Union Membership cause one to lose their humanity….to hurt, kill or destroy another person’s property – or worse….their life – because they chose not to join your group? Does being a union member mean you can harm any person – even maiming or killing them – so your group can prosper? Is this what the unions have become? An illuminating example of man’s inhumanity to man?

Frankly, Right to Work and companion bills like Employee Paycheck Protection – are designed to protect union workers. Yes, to protect union workers. There are many, many good people – union members – who look at the video of the crushed man or the burned Quaker meeting house and recoil in horror.

But we in Pennsylvania don’t protect those union workers – the ones who disavow the violence and the thuggery – the ones who want to put food on their own table – not steal it from another – the ones who want to reject and walk away from the unions. Our laws don’t allow it. Those people…those decent union workers…are left behind – FORCED – BY LAW – to pay dues up to the union bosses who encourage and demand such demonic action from their members – and forced to associate with the members who do that bidding willingly.
Can you imagine what happens to the union worker who says to the boss, “NO, I will not go out to a job site and stop another man from going to work.” Can you imagine what would happen to the union worker…who…if at the job site where the man was crushed — went over and actually helped that man? Would the Union Worker’s life be at risk too?

Of course it would. The remarkable thing about freedom is that it works in more than one way. For instance, in America, we have freedom of speech. One can, in almost all circumstances, say what one wants – but the reverse is true as well….one can say nothing all. In fact, we have an entire amendment…the 5th – dedicated to that ideal.

That’s why it is time now – for all of us to join in solidarity and say – we support the right of a person to freely associate and join a private organization like a union if he or she so chooses – but we also support a person’s right not to.

Anyway – if Unions are as great as the Big Labor Union Bosses say they are…why do they have to thug people up to join?

And in that deafening silence where the answer should be….it is time for Governor Corbett to stand up, stand strong and stand for ALL the workers of Pennsylvania by giving them their freedom NOW by passing Right to Work – RIGHT NOW.

In Liberty and Solidarity – Jennifer Stefano

You can find out more about Right to Work at AmericansforProsperity.org and JenniferStefano.com.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Simon Campbell Takes on Unions


Radio Program Schedule for the week of July 21, 2012 – July 27, 2012

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Harmon Kaslow producer of the film Atlas Shrugged, Part II based on the iconic novel by Ayn Rand
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story on the perfect fiscal storm about to hit Congress
  • Adam Tragone, Managing Editor at Human Events has an Off the Cuff talk with Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt about voter fraud
  • Colin Hanna of Let Freedom Ring, USA has an American Radio Journal Commentary on President Obama’s dismantling of Clinton-era welfare reform

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Eric Boehm has news headlines from www.paindependent.com
  • David Taylor hosts a Capitol Watch roundtable discussion on union antics in the Pennsbury School District with Kevin Shivers from the PA Chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business and with Pennsbury School Director Simon Campbell
  • Lowman Henry has a Town Hall Commentary on why Pennsylvania is headed for a fiscal iceberg

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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