Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Why I hate Gov. Ed Rendell

I was on a radio program recently when a listener called in to ask why I hate Gov. Ed Rendell so much. I was surprised by the question. I'm not sure why the caller had the impression I hate Rendell. I've never met Ed Rendell. It's hard to hate somebody you've never met.

I think Rendell has been a terrible governor, but I never said I hate the man. I'm sure he's a nice guy. And it appears Rendell and I have a couple of things in common: We love the Eagles and we like to eat food that isn't good for us.

I helped elect Ed Rendell in 2002. I looked at his record as Philadelphia mayor. I reviewed his campaign promises and I bought into his vision for a "new Pennsylvania." I voted for him. Four year later, it's painfully clear that Ed Rendell lied to me (and a few hundred thousand other Pennsylvania voters).

There's an old expression: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I trusted Ed Rendell. He betrayed that trust. I'll never vote for him again.

I believed Ed Rendell when he promised in 2002 he would cut property taxes. It's 2006. My property taxes have risen 22 percent since Rendell took office. Pennsylvania property owners have paid $2 billion more in property taxes under Rendell. You call that tax relief?

The pundits who say Ed Rendell is a sure bet to win re-election assume he will get every vote he did when he won in 2002. That's not the case. Rendell needs to find one more new vote this year because I won't be voting for him. Thousands of other Pennsylvanians — maybe hundreds of thousands — won't be voting for Rendell either. Unless Pennsylvania voters are just plain dumb, why would they vote for a politician who broke his promise?

In 2002, Rendell attracted Republican voters who weren't impressed with GOP candidate Mike Fisher, who never articulated why he wanted to be governor. Fisher had no vision for Pennsylvania's future. Unfortunately, Rendell's vision included raising taxes, increasing state spending at twice the rate of inflation and mortgaging the state's future with massive borrowing.

I know that independent voters and members of the Libertarian, Green and other third parties won't vote for Rendell in 2006. The Democratic Party, which is run by Rendell, has worked feverishly this year to deny third party candidates access to statewide offices.

Rendell has lost the anti-gambling vote. He told voters in 2002 he wanted to revive the state's horse racing industry by allowing slots at racetracks. Instead, he pushed a bill through the legislature that will bring 61,000 slots throughout Pennsylvania.

The casino money at the end of the rainbow is a mirage. Just look at New Jersey, which takes in $475 million a year from 20 full casinos. Rendell is promising $1 billion for tax relief from 14 slot parlors? Do the math. Rendell's scheme to cut taxes using casino revenues is built on a house of cards.

Rendell won't get support from the growing taxpayers' movement led by the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations because he pushed Act 72 and later Act 1 down the throats of unsuspecting homeowners. Rendell's shell game with public school funding will mean higher school taxes for most Pennsylvania residents for years to come.

Rendell has lost the support of reformers. State government needs fumigation, but Rendell likes the "pay-to-play" culture of Harrisburg. He can do business with the legislative leadership that gave us the infamous July 2005 pay raise. Rendell signed the pay raise bill because he said he needed to "kiss a little butt" in order to work with the legislature.

Rendell has lost support of Pennsylvania physicians. He promised to fix the medical malpractice mess. Instead he gave us MCARE abatement which costs taxpayers 220 million a year and vetoed the Fair Share Act that he said he would sign into law if sent to him.

Rendell has lost the support of senior citizens who are smart enough to see through the dog-and-pony show Rendell puts on when it comes to tax reform. A $250 rebate for somebody who is paying $3,000 in property taxes isn't enough to buy Rendell a single vote.

Rendell has lost the support of the business community as he presides over one of the worst economic climates in the country. Forbes magazine ranks Pennsylvania 41 out of 50 states in business climate. High taxes and government regulations have driven out many of the state's businesses.

Nobody is more disappointed in Ed Rendell than I am. I hired him to do a job. I pay his salary. He works for me. He hasn't done the job I hired him to do. Four years of failure is all I can afford in a governor. On Nov. 7, I'm going to hire someone else for the job.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com