The age old class warfare argument

Article posted on February 29, 2016

Another long day of Budget Hearings was capped off by a political stunt featuring several of the Democrats who used the time allocated for looking at the budget and operations of the Dept. of Labor and Industry to put out misleading information about increasing the minimum wage. So far, the hearings haven’t been used for political purposes, other than what could be expected concerning budget issues, but today was much different. I guess if you can’t defend the Governor’s performance to date and agenda for the future, you change the conversation with the age old class warfare argument.

-John

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table

Article posted on February 28, 2016

We finished out the Jaffa Sports Show 2016 at 5:00 this afternoon. I didn’t get an official count, but I suspect the numbers put the attendance in the top few of all previous shows. The number one topic for the weekend was the Republican nomination for President, next was the budget, third was pension reform (1 prison guard against reform, all others for it), Sunday hunting (about 50/50 for and against). Other topics included the Blair County tax reassessment, anti-tethering legislation, school district spending, trespassing on posted property, ATV legal usage, concealed carry permit questions, the possible Canadian Pacific take over of Norfolk Southern, and lots of other topics. This show is a great opportunity to hear real, unvarnished opinions from hundreds of people in our region. They told it to me as they saw it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our table.

-John

They don’t want that

Article posted on February 27, 2016

We had a busy day at the Jaffa Sports Show. I was there from the opening at 10:00 until I left a little past 5:00 to get to the Freedom Twp. Fire Company’s 2015 Awards Banquet. Charlotte and I enjoyed our time at the dinner back where I grew up. Seeing hundreds of people at the Sports Show over the weekend allows me to hear what folks from all over our region think about state government and a host of other topics. Again, I heard over and over today, “don’t let this Governor increase our taxes.” It is important to note that they were not telling me about what I might want to do or not do when it comes to raising taxes, they are telling me to stop the Governor’s agenda to raise them. Folks figured out that his rhetoric about spending more money on schools, etc. is tied to taking more money from them, and they don’t want that.

-John

That’s more than just conservatives

Article posted on February 26, 2016

Although there were no budget hearings today, I left for Harrisburg early this morning to attend two meetings. I got back in time to get to the Sports Show at the Jaffa then the Geeseytown Firehall for a fish dinner with friends. I repeatedly heard from people at the show that they did not want tax increases and to hold the line against the Governor’s agenda. I am asked often what I hear from constituents concerning the budget, I respond by saying that about 90% of the folks I hear from tell me to not give in to the Governor’s demands. I understand that I’m in a conservative area, but 90%, that’s more than just conservatives.

-John

No understanding of what families or businesses do when money is tight

Article posted on February 25, 2016

One of the problems with government budgets is the expectation that spending lines increase each year either at least at the rate of inflation or what is called “cost to carry,” which includes larger increases like pay raises, health insurance, and pension obligation. Programming lines are based on people served instead of using any real performance measures. Occasionally, someone takes a hard look at a program and makes changes or closes it out, but that doesn’t happen often, trust me. Some of us are working on setting up performance-based standards and also looking at zero-based budgeting, something I started when I was a county commissioner. We are making a dent in what’s being requested this week, but there’s no understanding of what families or businesses do when money is tight, like making cuts.

-John

This is one of the worst examples of a government boondoggle I’ve ever seen

Article posted on February 24, 2016

The Governor announced this morning that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He said that his doctors caught it at an early stage and that his prognosis is good. I wish him a speedy recovery and will keep him in my prayers. The hearings were longer than scheduled again today. The general tone was on cost savings in these departments including the salaries and benefits of employees, decision making processes, and how staff is allocated. We discussed the unbelievable amount of waste involved with the Statewide Public Radio System upgrades that started during the Ridge administration and have continued since. This year alone, the State Police are requesting $11.7 million for this purpose with no end in sight. This is one of the worst examples of a government boondoggle I’ve ever seen. Tomorrow’s schedule includes DEP, DCED, and the Attorney General.

-John

Budget Hearings Schedule Thursday 2-25-16

Many questions about the Governor’s authority to requisition money

Article posted on February 23, 2016

We had two Supreme Court Justices testify this morning, and the State Treasurer and Auditor General this afternoon. We talked with the courts about the number of Judges and Magisterial District Judges. They have trimmed a couple of dozen MDJ’s recently and are in the midst of a study to look at the workload of Common Pleas Court Judges on a county by county basis. The court can make changes to the MDJ’s; the number of Judges is set by statute, so the legislature will work with the court to address any proposals coming as a result of the study. This afternoon’s testimony covered many questions about the Governor’s authority to requisition money without an appropriation in place and what happens with the functions of PERC after it was closed by the Governor. Tomorrow’s presenters include: DCNR, the State Police, and the Dept. of Drug and Alcohol.

-John

Budget Hearings Schedule Wednesday 2-24-16

This budget is a house of cards

Article posted on February 22, 2016

The first day of budget hearings was more substantial than usual. We kept our first witness, the Budget Secretary, on the stand for over 4 hours. The Secretary tried to answer with talking points, but that wasn’t acceptable to the Republican members. We tried to obtain as much real information as we could under the time constraints of these circumstances. The proposed budget doesn’t make sense for various reasons. The administration used a projected 2015-16 year end figure to start the 2016-17 year and based it in the figures used in the agreed-to budget that fell apart last December. This is budgetary malpractice. The administration continues to talk about the agreed-to deal as where we’ll end up. As has been explained many, many times, this deal is dead and has been after the House Democrats killed pension reform. So, when you hear about the budget proposal, remember that the starting figures from the Governor are wrong. For someone who rails against previous budgets for including “tricks and gimmicks,” he uses bad foundational numbers, a growth rate that is too high, a Severance tax that goes against what every other gas producing state is doing right now, and dramatically increases spending while arguing that we need to close the gap with our structural deficit. This budget is a house of cards.

-John

Budget Hearings Schedule Tuesday 2-23-16

I’ll bet you’ll be in for a surprise

Article posted on February 21, 2016

There was pretty much nothing worth mentioning in today’s papers.  It’s hard to believe that with everything that’s going on in Harrisburg, the press can’t look into something of interest.  What I’ve learned is that spending time digging into an issue is done by very few reporters.  Most hit on the highlights.  Over the next two weeks there will be plenty of examples of the few true reporters following details of the Budget Hearings and those that run with a sound bite.  To get the real story, watch the hearings live by clicking on this link.  For fun, do that then read tomorrow’s papers, I’ll bet you’ll be in for a surprise.

-John

 

Treating people the right way, is important, always

Article posted on February 20, 2016

What a beautiful day. I wasn’t out much, but Charlotte and Lillie got in a long walk. After my men’s fellowship I did office work and ran an errand, which took most of the day. I stopped by the Central Blair Recreation Commission’s dinner then went to the Altoona Community Theatre’s production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” This is one of my favorite movies and the play tonight was very well done. At a time when race relations are the worst in this country since the 60’s, it was instructive. Doing the right thing and treating people the right way, is important, always.

-John