Monday, December 24, 2007

Civil war for Montco GOP

The Republican Party in neighboring Montgomery County is in the middle of a civil war. Read the latest in The Mercury and check for updates at the Tony Phyrillas politics blog.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why school taxes are so high

A newspaper in Altoona did an analysis of school superintendent contracts. The Altoona Mirror looked at most of the state's 501 school districts.

The newspaper obtained the actual contracts of all the superintendents and has them posted at its Web site.

"In addition to the already-publicized salaries are benefits and perks that often last into retirement," according to the newspaper.

That means taxpayers often end up paying for mistakes made by their elected school board members, who turn into doormats when it comes to handing out salary and perks to superintendents.

You have to read this scandalous report.

Here's the link to the newspaper's Web site:

The newspaper's findings about excessive compensation for school administrators is similar to a January 2007 column by Tony Phyrillas.

Read "The Other Half of the School Tax Problem" by clicking here.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Democrats lead the way in Congressional pork spending

What was that Democrats were saying about changing the culture of corruption in Washington? What was that about draining the swamp?

Not only have Democrats failed to live up to their promise of ending "business-as-usual" in Washington, but 20 freshmen Democrats elected as part of the Democratic tide in 2006 have spent most of 2007 wallowing in the same muck as the Republicans they defeated.

USA Today is reporting that 20 freshman Democrats in the House and Senate have secured $70 million in pork barrel projects for their districts.

The worst offenders? Four Democrats elected in Pennsylvania House districts. Topping the list of Senate porkers is freshman Sen. Bob Casey Jr.

Nothing changes in Washington except who sticks his hand in your pocket. Last year, it was Republicans. This year it's the Democrats.

Below is the list of Special-Interest Spending published by USA Today, showing the 20 freshman members of Congress who had the most special-interest spending, or "earmarks," in the House and Senate spending bills, according to the newspaper. This includes only spending items with a single sponsor, not multiple sponsors, the newspaper notes.)

Member, Party, State, (District) Total Earmarks

Rep. Christopher Carney, D-Pa. (10th) $18,185,000
Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa. $16,649,579
Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa. (4th) $12,475,000
Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa. (8th) $11,822,500
Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa. (7th) $11,175,000
Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va. $11,000,000
Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa (1st) $10,586,540
Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Wis. (8th) $10,485,000
Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky. (3rd) $10,456,000
Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Texas (22nd) $10,423,537
Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind. (8th) $10,356,000
Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C. (11th) $10,333,000
Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. (5th) $10,325,000
Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind. (9th) $9,760,000
Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. (2nd) $9,640,000
Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif. (11th) $9,275,000
Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H. (2nd) $8,806,000
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. (at-large) $8,781,000
Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Ohio (6th) $8,726,000
Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-N.Y. (24th) $8,425,000

Source: USA TODAY analysis based on data from Taxpayers for Common Sense,

The revelation that Democrats were now the kings of Congressional pork was noted by Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Robert A. Gleason Jr.

"Pennsylvania Democrats sure have some answering to do," Gleason said in a written statement. "After criticizing former members of Congress for securing funding for pet projects, every freshmen member of Pennsylvania’s Democrat Congressional Delegation was listed at the top of the list when it comes to securing earmarks for their pet projects. While on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania last year, Sen. Bobby Casey Jr. and Congressmen Chris Carney, Jason Altmire, Patrick Murphy, and Joe Sestak each promised to put a stop to pork-barrel spending; however, all have proven that they care far more about Washington politics than their promises.

"What this report does not reflect is that each one of these Democrats had to give up a vote for something else to get their smaller piece of the pot to fund projects in their districts. The simple truth is that each one of these Democrats had to first agree to send hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, including money from Pennsylvania, all over this country in order to receive any funding for their pet project. Is this the change that Democrats promised last year?

"Every one of these Democrats has flip-flopped on their campaign promise to ensure the proper spending of our hard-earned tax dollars. Pennsylvanians' distrust with these elected officials is sure to grow, and I can only imagine that it will be difficult for them to trust anything they say as they campaign next year. They all seem to be from the Clinton school of politics – stand for nothing, say whatever is popular at the time, and sell out early and often

Keep in mind these are only freshmen members of Congress. The King of Congressional Pork continues to be Rep. John Murtha, also of Pennsylvania. Read more about Murtha's antics at the Boot Murtha Web site,

For more background on Congressional pork spending, I recommend

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Rendell threatens to take hostages again

Somebody should put a call into SWAT. Gov. Ed Rendell is planning to take hostages again.

Rendell is threatening to withhold state aid to help doctors pay for malpractice insurance unless the Legislature approves the governor's plan to provide government-subsidized health insurance for the state's 800,000 uninsured residents.

Rendell's "Cover All Pennsylvanians" proposal has been languishing in the Legislature since the governor first floated the idea in February. Lawmakers refuse to consider Rendell's 3-percent payroll tax on employers who do not provide health insurance to fund health coverage for the uninsured.

Rendell always has something up his sleeve. When the Legislature balked at leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private company to help raise money to bail out mass transit, Rendell went to Plan B: Making Interstate 80 a toll road.

The governor now wants the Legislature to use part of the projected $500 million surplus in the state's medical malpractice fund (known as MCare) to pay for the uninsured. That won't cover all the costs of providing health coverage to 800,000 people. The rest of the money would come from an additional 10-cents-a-pack tax on cigarettes and taxing cigars and smokeless tobacco.

This is not the first time Rendell has threatened to hold hostages to get his way. He did it earlier this year when he threatened state workers. And we all know how well that worked out.

It just five months ago when Rendell and the Legislature could not agree on a $27 billion General Fund budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year, which began July 1.

Rendell's bargaining chip was 24,000 "non-essential" state workers. Rendell went ahead with the furlough, but when the Legislature wouldn't budge and public sentiment turned against Rendell, he brought the workers back the next day (and ended up paying them for the extra vacation day). That little stunt cost Pennsylvania taxpayers about $3 million.

As I said back in July when I wrote about Rendell's bully tactics, when you take hostages, you have to be prepared to follow through with the threat to harm them. Rendell blinked on the furlough of state workers and lost the fight over the budget. He didn't get his health insurance plan or any of the $2.5 billion in new or expanded taxes Rendell wanted to include in the 2007-08 budget.

Taking the state's doctors hostage is an even dumber move on the governor's part. Unlike state workers, doctors have more resources at their disposal. They are a powerful lobbying group that can do a lot of harm to politicians. Doctors like having the state pick up part of their malpractice payments and are not going to give it up without a fight.

Rendell and the lockstep Democrats in the House have overreached several times in 2007. Pennsylvania residents want lower taxes, not more taxes and expanded government control of health care, transportation and energy.

In a story published by the Allentown Morning-Call, state Rep. Mike Sturla, a Democrat from Lancaster County, was quoted as saying he is willing to shake down Pennsylvania taxpayers even more to get the governor’s initiatives passed.

"I don't care if we stand people on their heads and shake pennies from their pockets," Sturla said. "All I want to do is make sure Pennsylvanians have access to health care in a reasonable, rational manner."

What a pleasant site. Rendell and Sturla holding an elderly Pennsylvania taxpayer upside down and shaking him until every penny falls out of his pocket.

Ask Sturla's constituents in Lancaster County if they'd like to pay more in taxes to people in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh can get health insurance. I think not.

Sturla may have talked his way out of a job when he faces re-election next year.
Let's say Rendell gets enough votes in the Legislature to raid the MCare fund.

Rendell is notorious for spending every dime that comes his way. What happens when the MCare fund is drained down to zero?

Where will Rendell get the money to replenish the MCare fund? The basic economic concept that Rendell has operated under is "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul."
Peter is tired of giving and Paul is in no mood to give anything back.