Wednesday, September 2, 2009

PA-Rep on PA Budget Crisis

Just got this update from Pennsylvania State Rep. Katherine Watson.

There's one of two important bits that should be seen.
Representative Democracy: One More Casualty of the Budget Impasse
By Rep. Kathy Watson (R-Bucks/144th)

The number of personal impact stories caused by the Pennsylvania budget impasse grows by the day: parochial school students without new textbooks; college students without their PHEAA grant or loan payment; social service agencies unable to pay staff or being forced to turn away clients; or low-income families without day care subsidy payments forced to find alternative child care or stay home from work. The list goes sadly on. All of this misery and it didn’t have to happen.

To be sure, there are fundamental philosophical differences on how to best survive a deep recession and the loss of $3.5 billion in revenue, underpinning this deadlock. However, this current “budget crisis” is not a function of government, nor the result of the lengthy deliberations of the majority of the General Assembly members elected by their constituents.

Rather, it is man-made in the truest sense. Gov. Ed Rendell, when he signed Senate Bill 850, the stop-gap budget, chose to blue-line (veto) funding for schools, both public and non-public; vital human services including subsidies for day care, drug and alcohol counseling, and PHEAA grants and loans; funding to counties for daily operations; and the line items go on and on.

As he explained to the Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter in an interview he gave on Aug. 5, “The reason I line-item vetoed everything is to make sure there is still pressure. For example, the county governments are screaming bloody murder because all of their lines are out. The universities, the PHEAA grants...none of the PHEAA grants can go out... The providers like Pre-K Counts and the Head Starts, they’re going to run out of money by the end of August, so there’s still plenty of pressure to get this done.

Using Pennsylvania families, college students, school children, social service agency workers as leverage to get an agreement from one side in a budget dispute is wrong and definitely not what William Penn envisioned for his “grand experiment” of government. Added to this “the ends justify the means” strategy, has been the fact that, in the Pennsylvania House, at nearly every attempt, the 188 rank-and-file members have been thwarted from full public debate through the manipulation of the House rules and calendar. This means that almost 11.5 million Pennsylvanians were denied having their representative publicly debate any budget proposal, either before the June 30 deadline or after. Couple this with the fact that the joint House-Senate Conference Committee consists entirely of members of leadership, decisions will be in the hands of a few.

Even more troubling is the notion that even with substantive input from any member of the General Assembly into the contents of a final budget, this could have – and should have – been done in May, long before the budget deadline and the countless games that follow that have caught Pennsylvanians squarely in the middle.

Some would argue that there was considerable public debate on Senate Bill 850 – the document that eventually became the bridge budget to triage state employees and which was stained in blue ink by the governor’s line-item vetoes. But it was never anyone’s intent to have that bill become the final budget document. Senate Bill 850 was a starting point by the Senate. It was a tool to get where we needed to go in early June, setting the stage for negotiations.

Yes, we know that revenues were way below projections. Yes, we know that state government has to live within its means. Yes, we recognize that we must know revenue levels so we know how much we can spend. I do not believe that we needed to create a crisis to solve the problem. My colleagues and I wanted real input into a budget document and to participate in real discussions – whether at public meetings or on the House floor – to the state’s spending priorities.

For many years, this was the case. Rank-and-file members examined the budget document, drafted amendments to prioritize spending and were the voices of the 60,000 people they each represent.

We worked from that exercise, and we knew where each of us stood on our spending priorities. Instead of following years of precedent and procedures that worked to get a budget done on time and without hurting the very people who depend on state government services, budget documents were introduced late; amendments hundreds of pages long were added at the last minute; and the leaders of the controlling party have had final say on the contents of budget bills.

As a result, this budget has become a partisan game in which everyone is a loser. Every individual, every family, every business, every organization and every governmental body within the Commonwealth has become a very public victim of this budget crisis. It’s time to bring a real piece of legislation to the House floor, discuss our spending priorities and enact a budget once and for all.

Representative Katharine M. Watson
144th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

This all sounds like the thuggish tactics that we have come to expect from the people of the left.

Let's put a stop to these politics that sound more like what you'd expect from a union boss or perhaps a Gotti.

Let's elect a conservative in 2010!

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