Friday, July 07, 2006

181: “I’m Mad as Hell!”


Here is the thing. I am not an extreme right wing conservative. I am a moderate conservative, but socially and just left of center. I do not approve of gay marriages, but I have no problem with same sex unions, just don’t call them marriages, no matter what form any ceremonies may take.

I am against big government, and believe that government’s second responsibility after protecting the common weal of the people, is to make itself smaller, and less obtrusive.

I am against social engineering by legislation. [This does not conflict with my views on marriage – civil unions do not infringe on the rights of traditional married couples, nor do they supersede traditional marriages…in other words, there is room in society for such unions, and apparently a need for them as well.]

That established, I have to tell you all I am mad as Hell about the state of politics in Pennsylvania.

In the previous essay, we indicated how long the Gambling Control Board would be sucking funds from other state department’s funds before they even turned a dime. Let’s explore this a bit farther. On the night the budget was passed, the House passed it and sent it to the Senate about mid-evening. During the debate, one senator, apparently someone on the Transportation Committee, questioned Senator Vince Fumo repeatedly about $45 million coming out of the Department of Transportation’s funding as a loan to the Gambling Control Board for operating expenses! This senator, who’s name escapes me, was pretty long-winded, and asked the question of Fumo several times, and Fumo dodged it each time, before finally coming out and saying that no money was coming out of the PennDot budget. [A great relief to me, as Pennsylvania has, without a doubt, the absolutely worst roads in the United States.] What he did not say was if money was being shifted from somewhere else to the Gambling Control Commission.

The senator then proceeded to talk some more and then simply dropped the subject. Now, it occurs to me that this was happening while some backroom arm-twisting was going on to get a bunch of Republicans to stop the budget –- for a while – but what a curious topic to raise when stalling the budget vote!

One then begins to wonder just where the appropriations are for the Gambling Control Commission and what their appropriation is for the fiscal year.

One then wonders if the $45 million is coming out of some other Department’s budget?

Other questions begin to rise from this exchange:

How long has this been going on?

What other programs have been so funded by “robbing Peter to pay Paul, and hiding it from the public”?

How is this money repaid to the departments from which it is “borrowed”, or is it?


Does this not amount to hiding appropriations?

Finally, why, if the Rendell administration will likely end its first (and hopefully only) term with well over a $1 billion in excess revenues, would any agency be forced to borrow from another?

The odor from the Capitol is bad enough in normal times, but this is really starting to become a nauseating stench. And at the heart of it is Senator Vince Fumo, the minority chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee!

Now, there is more about these events surrounding the passage of the budget. Fumo would have you believe that there was a deal to discuss and pass the omnibus gambling bill that night with the passage of the budget. When the Republicans dug in their heels and rejected the budget, Republican President Pro Tempore Bob Jubelirer, a lame duck ousted from office in the Primary over his arrogance and Pay Raise antics, apparently led the revolt, saying there was no promise to discuss or pass the omnibus gambling package.

Now Jubelirer, who has always claimed he opposed the gambling act, would not discuss a bill which would do three things (at least): remove the ability for legislators to have partial ownership in any casino venture, do away with the second tier bureaucracy of the gambling act which mandated that all the casinos in Pennsylvania had to buy slots from Pennsylvania owned distributors, and block the approval of a casino license in Adams County, an amendment that passed the house unanimously.

I would note that Jubelirer has never offered to bring forth a bill seeking the repeal of the gambling act, or even a roll back to Racinos only.

On the other side, Fumo wanted to discuss and submit the omnibus bill to a vote probably to kill it completely. Fumo was one of the prime movers of Rendell’s gambling package.

This odd couple exchange, which was reported on several blogs as being ‘heated’, was referred to by Fumo in the press the next day, while Jubelirer was silent.

I guess you don’t cross Vince Fumo without paying a price. Fumo has the luxury of time on his hands. The legislature does not return to session until the last week of September, barely a month before the election. He has time to line up his ducks in a row and shoot the package down. Jubelirer, who has played ball with Rendell and Fumo for the past four years will be loathe to stop him.

If Jubelirer has any spine left after all these years sticking it to the Republicans of this Commonwealth, and to all the citizens of Pennsylvania for that matter, he could bring a bill to the floor that would repeal, roll back, or at least place a moratorium on the issuance of licenses. That would, however, require Jubelirer to strong-arm John Perzel, Speaker of the House, to get Paul Clymer’s repeal and or moratorium bills passed in the house for movement to the Senate. That will be tough seeing as how Perzel is literally Rendell’s ‘right’-hand man.

Like I said, I’m mad as Hell about the state of the state! There are a bunch of crooks that we have elected to office because we placed our trust in the Republican and Democratic State Committees, while they were selling us out to the monied interests.

I know what I’m going to do about it. Do you know what you are going to do about it?

Tune in tomorrow to get those answers!

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