They shouldn’t be making it at all

Article posted on July 31, 2009

Day 31 without a budget.  The Governor again changed his schedule about when the House should vote on Senate Bill 850.  He said Monday, then said that it should be before Monday and now is saying Monday or Tuesday.   In any event, this could have been done a month ago.  The most disturbing news today was that, starting Sunday, the budget negotiations were going to take place behind closed doors at the Governor’s mansion instead of following the open meeting requirements of the Conference Committee.  For once, there was some public scrutiny of the budget talks.  People could see for themselves the games being played by the House Democrats and the future looked even worse for them.  They were going to have to ask for WAM’s , ask for a 16% tax increase and try to defend some of their special projects primarily focused in Philadelphia.  I hope that this is a one-time meeting and that the negotiations resume as prescribed by law, in public.   If the Governor and the House D’s are afraid to make a case for their agenda In public, they shouldn’t be making it at all.

– John

Senator Eichelberger Gives August Address from Senate Republicans

Article posted on July 31, 2009

Please click on the link to hear Senator Eichelberger’s comments:

http://av.pasenategop.com/zlinks/Eichelberger-080109-Address.mp3

Day 30 without a budget

Article posted on July 30, 2009

Day 30 without a budget.  Not much good news again from the Conference Committee.  The House Democrats have wasted another day and look like they could waste another month.  Unless the structure of these meetings change and they don’t get down to brass tacks, we will definitely be looking at September or beyond for a complete budget.  The Republicans want to define some parameters such as, are we agreed that there will be no Personal Income Tax increase and what is the final expenditure number from last year’s budget.  Starting with the basics seems logical, but Representative Dwight Evans and his group want to play games first and get to the facts later.  I would urge everyone to watch these meetings on PCN and see for themselves how these people operate.    The Governor today said that he would be calling for the House to come back into session before Monday to get the stop gap budget passed.  I was amazed that he said yesterday how urgent it is to pay state employees and then acknowledge that the House is not in session until next week.  To the Governor and House Dems, it’s more about what you say than what you accomplish.

– John

It’s a good day for all Pennsylvanians

Article posted on July 29, 2009

Day 29 without a budget.  The first meeting of the Conference Committee happened today at noon and lasted about 4 hours.  By all reports, not much got done, but a lot of posturing by the House Democrats.  If this continues, it will be a very long time before we see another vote on a budget.  At the same time the Conference Committee was meeting, the Governor had a news conference to say that if the committee did not reach a budget agreement by Monday, he would ask the House to pass Senate Bill 850.  He would then “blue line” everything out of the budget that was not critical to the core functions of government operations and use it as a “bridge” or “stop gap” measure until the legislature worked out the lines he vetoed.  This is a victory for the Republican Senate, state workers, state vendors and the taxpayers.  He has been forced to make a move to pay people before getting into trouble with the feds for not doing so.  His strategy of getting the state employees and the public whipped into a frenzy and having them beat down the legislature did not work.  His numbers don’t add up and now he has no where to run and no where to hide.  We will have an austere budget in place with no new taxes and will be able to approach the remainder of the budget lines from that perspective.  This totally changes the framework of the debate.  It is a good day for hard working Pennsylvanians. 

– John

It is a good day for hard working Pennsylvanians

Article posted on July 29, 2009

Day 29 without a budget.  The first meeting of the Conference Committee happened today at noon and lasted about 4 hours.  By all reports, not much got done, but a lot of posturing by the House Democrats.  If this continues, it will be a very long time before we see another vote on a budget.  At the same time the Conference Committee was meeting, the Governor had a news conference to say that if the committee did not reach a budget agreement by Monday, he would ask the House to pass Senate Bill 850.  He would then “blue line” everything out of the budget that was not critical to the core functions of government operations and use it as a “bridge” or “stop gap” measure until the legislature worked out the lines he vetoed.  This is a victory for the Republican Senate, state workers, state vendors and the taxpayers.  He has been forced to make a move to pay people before getting into trouble with the feds for not doing so.  His strategy of getting the state employees and the public whipped into a frenzy and having them beat down the legislature did not work.  His numbers don’t add up and now he has no where to run and no where to hide.  We will have an austere budget in place with no new taxes and will be able to approach the remainder of the budget lines from that perspective.  This totally changes the framework of the debate.  It is a good day for hard working Pennsylvanians. 

– John

Farewell to a friend in the Senate

Article posted on July 28, 2009

Day 28 without a budget.  There isn’t really much new to report about the budget process tonight so it gives me the opportunity to say farewell to a friend in the Senate, Rob Wonderling who has tendered his resignation effective today.  He is leaving the Senate to be the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, a job that was last held by former Governor Mark Schweiker.  I sat in front of Rob on the floor for the first two years I was in office and served on the Communications and Technology Committee of which he was chair.  Rob has been somewhat of a mentor to me as a new member and was always thoughtful in what he said.  I will miss Rob and everyone wished him well today as he embarks on this new journey.

– John

Maybe some sunshine would be a good thing

Article posted on July 27, 2009

Day 27 without a budget.  The Governor had a news conference today.  I didn’t see it, but I heard that it wasn’t one of his prouder moments.  He talked about being at a total expenditure number in his budget proposal of about $28 billion.  No one could figure out how he got to that figure with reports calculating his number to be about $28.4 or $28.5 billion.  He is talking about trying to find a way to pay employees and contracted agencies.  Maybe he feels, or knows, that the feds will soon make him start to pay employees and that he doesn’t want to be embarrassed on this issue.  He talked last week about having a deal by the middle of this week.  Today the talk was about how far apart the numbers still are.  This week will tell the story of how things will proceed.  He could do a “stop gap” or emergency type budget that would be bare bones with certain areas lined out for further negotiations or he could let the process proceed into a conference committee where all of the issues would be discussed in the open.  The House D’s and a lot of the House R’s don’t really want that scenario, the public part I mean.  Maybe some sunshine would be a good thing.

– John

It’s business as usual

Article posted on July 26, 2009

Day 26 without a budget.  There were fewer stories of interest in today’s papers than usual.  I guess that reporters are tired of writing about the budget mess.  What can you say after 26 days that hasn’t been said before.  There were more stories about the Vince Fumo sentence.  While I am glad to see the outrage, and there should be outrage, where were all of these reporters for the past 30 years as these things unfolded.  The press often knows about the goings-on in Harrisburg, but chooses not to report on it.  The Governor has gotten an awful lot of latitude over the years and so have many of the old guard legislators that continue to do things that cost too much and benefit mostly themselves.  We don’t seem to get much attention from the Attorney General, even when we are under investigation, so if the press doesn’t care, it’s business as usual.

– John

And a rumor that could be explosive

Article posted on July 25, 2009

Day 25 without a budget.  In talking to other legislators and reading what is or isn’t going on, it appears that we are in for at least a couple of more weeks without a budget.  It is important to know that there will be several days to a week to work bills through the legislative process once a deal is made so nothing is going to happen overnight.  The pressure is mounting on the Governor to agree to what his constituents want, no tax increase and a lower spend number.  If the federal government forces him to pay state employees, and most people think they will, he will not only look bad for all of the problems he put people through and lose the confidence of the people who blindly follow him, he will lose credibility with the public, the press and the legislature for leading us all down this path based on his legal argument that he had to do it.  I will be keeping close tabs as will everyone else in Harrisburg on this issue and a rumor that could be explosive.

– John

Stop Payless Paydays

Article posted on July 24, 2009

Day 24 without a budget.  I had a visit today from some folks from AFSCME who are primarily concerned about not getting paid.  It is interesting to talk to people, and I do it daily with emails, about the misinformation they are fed from either their union leadership or the administration.  They thought that I was being paid, I said that I haven’t been paid since June 1st.  Then they asked me about all of the per diem money I am making during this budget impasse, I explained that I never take per diems and that the Senate isn’t paying per diems during the budget impasse.  They thought that I had taken a vacation this year, I ask them when.  I have either been in Harrisburg or the district working and that we are on 6 hour call around the clock if something breaks.  They asked me why the Senators don’t contribute to their retirement or health insurance plans like other state employees, I told them that we do.  Anyway, the real point of their meeting on the sidewalk today was to demonstrate for a paycheck.  The Governor’s decision to not pay state workers is wrong and I have said this each year since I have been in office.  Each year the Governor uses a different legal argument to not pay essential or non-essential employees, furlough people or have all state employees work without pay.  One of the ladies said to me that if I believe what I say, then I should stand with them and carry a sign stating just what I told them, so I did.  She gave me her sign that said, “Stop Payless Paydays”.  I carried it proudly with about 30 state employees who should get what they deserve.

– John