It’s a mess that Tom Corbett has created for himself and our Commonwealth

Article posted on August 31, 2009

Day 62 without a real budget.  It will be interesting to see how budget talks progress this week.  If the Governor is using the House D’s to stall, this indicates a much longer wait.  If things actually progress, then there is some hope.  I spoke and corresponded with several people today about the budget.  I also worked on other constituent and scheduling issues.  Despite the importance of the budget, other issues and circumstances also need attention.  In the news today were two stories about legal issues.  Former Senator Vince Fumo reported to his new home, a federal penitentiary in Kentucky, today and former Representative Sean Ramaley’s bonusgate hearing was postponed from mid-September until December 1.  The Bonusgate investigation is getting press these days because AG Tom Corbett has put himself into a position where whatever he does looks political.  He said throughout the investigation that he would not make major announcements about any case too close to an election because it might be construed as giving some political advantage to a party or person.  Yet, he is expected to announce his own candidacy for Governor soon and has made recent comments about the potential of more indictments in the works.   After waiting over 2 ½ years, blowing about $10 million of tax money and seeing only two former House Democrats and some of their staffers indicted, the promise of a thorough investigation into both chambers on both sides of the aisle looks disingenuous.  Add to this mix, the fact that the AG has taken campaign contributions from many legislators in the past and needs the support of legislators if he runs for Governor puts him in an even tougher to explain situation.  It’s a real mess and one that Tom Corbett has created for himself and, unfortunately, our Commonwealth.

– John

Senator Eichelberger to discuss budget and Marriage Amendment in Williamsburg

Article posted on August 31, 2009

On Thursday, September 3, 2009, Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr. will hold a Town Hall meeting in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania focusing on the state budget and the “Marriage Protection Amendment”, legislation that he is sponsoring. 

“It has been a difficult year for the budget process because of the Governor’s unwillingness to meet a constitutional deadline.  This town hall meeting will give me an opportunity to explain the behind-the-scenes process and address concerns.  Citizens will also learn about my upcoming legislation, the “Marriage Protection Amendment” and how it will allow them to decide how to define marriage and why it is important to all Pennsylvanians,” says Eichelberger.

                                          WHO:       State Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr.

                                          WHAT:    Town Hall Meeting

                                          WHEN:    Thursday, September 3, 2009, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

                                          WHERE: Williamsburg Farm Show Building

                                                            Recreation Drive

                                                            Williamsburg, PA 16693

Media RSVP is appreciated.  Please call Legislative Aide, Wendy Reitz at 814-695-8386 or email wreitz@pasen.gov.

###

He has gotten himself into a bad situation with this investigation

Article posted on August 30, 2009

Day 61 without a real budget.  I attended the opening of the new Spring Cove Elementary School this afternoon and went to an event in Altoona this evening where I got to play a couple of numbers on the drums with Ricky Lee.  I, again, talked to a lot of people about the budget.  I get a lot of questions from folks about the process and end up giving somewhat of a civics lesson.  I don’t mind and find that people are invariably interested in the details of how things really work.  There wasn’t much in the papers today.  Our Attorney General has been under attack for his lack of action in Bonusgate and claims that he’ll announce more charges soon, we’ll see.  He should be looking at both parties in both chambers.  I hear rumors about possible scenarios unfolding, but nothing that I can count on.  An analysis of his own comments shows that he has gotten himself into a bad situation with this investigation at this point.  That is a good subject for another blog post.

– John

The number one communication I receive in the office

Article posted on August 29, 2009

Day 60 without a real budget. I was a guest at a family reunion in southern Huntingdon County this afternoon. This was their 100th reunion and was quite an affair. This evening I helped sell ice cream for the Penn State Altoona Alumni Society at a concert in Altoona. I talked to a lot of people throughout the day and heard the message consistently that they do not want a tax increase and they expect the government to cut back just like they are doing at home. I spoke with a local paper yesterday and told them that they should do a story on this message instead of, or at least next to the stories they do almost daily on one group or another that wants more money. I explained that the no new tax and cut spending message is the number one communication I receive in the office. I guess that story line might not sell papers, but it would be nice, for a change, to get the view of working people who don’t want the government taking any more of their money and giving it to someone else.

– John

Sometimes you see the unvarnished truth

Article posted on August 28, 2009

Day 59 without a real budget.  The big news about the budget today was the reaction to the sudden and unprovoked edict from Representative Dwight Evans about the negotiations that occurred during his lengthy absence.  He not only said that everything agreed to is off, he said that the Republicans broke a deal by not agreeing to a spend number of $28 Billion.  I can tell you that I never heard of any agreement on a spend number and internally, we never talked about any numbers over $27.5 Billion.  I can’t believe that a ploy like this is happening at this stage of the game.  I spent part of today on day care center issues.  It is interesting to me that some in this business, not all,  are more concerned about money than the children that are enrolled in their programs. Sometimes during times of distress, you see the unvarnished truth.

– John

The average citizen will become more disillusioned with state government

Article posted on August 27, 2009

Day 58 without a real budget.  The news today on the impasse was about new issues with the Conference Committee.  Since Dwight Evans, the self appointed chair of this committee has been off for several weeks, he and the Governor don’t like the fact that discussions among the other legislative leaders, in their absence,  have been productive and wants to schedule more committee meetings next week.  The Conference Committee is the official group charged with working out the budget bill that is stalled.  The meetings so far have been designed to simply showcase the shallow arguments of the tax and spend Democrats.  They have produced nothing, zero, zip progress on the budget negotiations and probably won’t for the foreseeable future.  People wonder why we can’t come to an agreement, this is why.  More politics will be played, social service agencies, counties and schools won’t be paid and the average citizen will become more disillusioned with state government.

– John

So far the Governor hasn’t even been on the same planet

Article posted on August 27, 2009

Day 57 without a real budget.  The Senate was in session today.  We passed a few bills, most notably a bill that addressed a pension problem in Philadelphia and ended up being amended to include broad pension reform measures.  We had two caucus meetings today and discussed the budget situation, of course, among other issues.  The Governor now wants to broaden our sales tax.  In other words, he wants to put the tax on items that are not taxed currently. Again, there is not enough support for this change.  The Governor and the House Democrats need to be realistic, they need to get to a spending number that is sustainable over the next three years and they need to realize that a large tax increase will be detrimental to the economy.  We can make some progress on this impasse if everyone is practical, so far the Governor hasn’t even been on the same planet.

– John

Not seeing the forest for the trees

Article posted on August 25, 2009

Day 56 without a real budget.  I spent today in Washington DC with Charlotte and Johnny at an event in Lafayette Park, across from the White House.  The Faith and Freedom Institute organized the “Return America Rally” and I was asked to be one of six speakers.  My topic was the Marriage Protection Amendment.  The crowd included folks from about six states including Pennsylvania.  There was a good range of speakers, a number of prayer givers and a fantastic gospel quartet that has an appearance scheduled next year at a church in Altoona.   (Someone remind me to get that on my schedule.)  I did a couple of media interviews today by phone.  One was on the Governor’s latest pronouncement that the budget talks were making progress while the Senate Republicans said that they weren’t.  I don’t know why the Governor said what he did, I’m not even sure that he has been involved in the talks lately.  The reports I saw and the conversations I had with members on Monday were that the talks lately have been strictly between legislative leaders.  The other interview was on my views of the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) program in Pennsylvania.  This program is a band aid approach to economic development and allows the state’s elected leaders to defer real pro-business decisions like lowering taxes, decreasing regulations and implementing tort reform.  This is a classic example of, “not seeing the forest for the trees”.

– John

There’s a lot more to do on lots of issues

Article posted on August 24, 2009

Day 55 without a real budget.  I drove to the capitol today for a Finance Committee meeting where we voted on two bills.  The most noted of the two was the bill on the Philadelphia pension problems.  The committee voted to allow the city to levy an additional 1 percent sales tax, like they asked, but with substantial pension reforms added by amendment.   Pennsylvania has more pension funds than any other state and many of them are underfunded.  Something needs done and today was a beginning.  The new language addressed problems specific to Philly and also included state-wide pension reform measures.  There’s a lot more to do on public pensions, but then, there’s a lot more to do on lots of issues.

– John

The big city senators don’t know how easy they have it

Article posted on August 23, 2009

Day 54 without a real budget.  There wasn’t much in the news today.  A story in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review talking about prison overcrowding featured some comments by me.  This is a subject that I have worked on for years.  We are reaching a spending crises in the corrections budget and reform will be a large part of what gets us through our future budgetary problems.  There have been several stories over the last few days about Vince Fumo being addicted to two prescription medications and asking for time to detox before starting his short prison term.  He was denied that request by the judge, thankfully.  I had a busy day today with work to get out over the weekend and an Eagle Scout ceremony near Three Springs in Huntingdon County.  I don’t think that most folks understand that in a district this size, attending some things means a full afternoon.  Today’s drive time was an hour and 15 minutes each way and the service was a little over an hour.  Last night, Charlotte and I went to the Fulton County Fair, which had a similar drive time.  This sometimes prohibits me from getting to another event occurring  at about the same time.  The big city senators don’t know how easy they have it.

– John