Monday, December 18, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: Voter remorse

Some 2,451,830 Pennsylvania voters cast ballots for Gov. Ed Rendell on Nov. 7, but I haven't been able to find a single person willing to admit they voted for Rendell.

Why do so many people regret giving Rendell a second term? What if people realize they made a mistake the day after the polls closed? What if the governor starts behaving badly after winning a second term.

One Philadelphia columnist has come up with a new nickname for "Fast Eddie." He's now calling Rendell "Crazy Eddie."

Maybe we should have a 30-day return policy on election returns. Can't voters change their mind before Rendell is sworn in to a second term? Here's what Gov. Rendell has been up to since Election Day.

1) He vetoed a bill that would have allowed communities to spread out collecting of the $52 local services tax, effectively slapping Pennsylvania workers in the face. Instead of giving municipalities the ability to spread out the tax burden (maybe even $1 a week), Rendell wants the $52 to come out of your first pay check in 2007.

2) A week after the election, Rendell floated a trail balloon about raising the state gas tax (already the second-highest in the nation) by 12.5 cents. That would accompany raising vehicle registration fees and driver's license fees. And Rendell wouldn't mind seeing an increase in the realty transfer tax.

3) Rendell signed a bill (passed without debate by the Legislature) to permit casinos to serve free booze to gamblers.

4) Rendell appointed his favorite lobbyist (the guy who gets free rides on Rendell's private plane) to a committee that is supposed to draft new lobbyist disclosure regulations. Talk about the fox guarding the chicken coop. Rendell's pick, lawyer and lobbyist Richard Gmerek, is the same man responsible for getting the state's last lobbyist disclosure overturned in court.

5) Rendell accepted a pay raise on Dec. 1, boosting his salary from $161,173 to $164,396 a year.

6) Rendell gave one of his political pals, Joe Conti, a $150,000-a-year job as CEO of the Pennsylvania's liquor store monopoly. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has operated without a CEO for decades and already has a three-member board overseeing the operation. Each of those board members makes $65,000 a year. But Rendell gave Conti a job without telling the three board members ahead of time. While Conti is a Republican, he is credited with helping push through Rendell's agenda (tax increases, casino gambling, the pay raise) through the Senate. In Rendell's world, party affiliation doesn't matter. If you scratch Fast Eddie's back, he'll reward you with a taxpayer-funded job (see Joe Hoeffel). Conti, by the way, chose to retire as a state senator and collect a big fat pension instead of facing the voters this year. But Uncle Eddie took care of him and sent you the bill.

7) Rendell has proposed turning over the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private company in order to raise more money for his out-of-control spending.

8) Rendell has hinted he wants to raise the state sales tax in 2007. Not to cut property taxes, but to raise more money for his pet projects.

Can we have another crack at the election?

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