Friday, March 28, 2008

Conservative activist's take on Berks candidates

Check out this critique of a Candidates Night event by Bob Guzzardi at Conservative Reform Network.

Guzzardi has some complimentary remarks about a Democrat seeking the 187th House seat, but had nothing good to say about two Berks County incumbent lawmakers, Rep. Doug Reichley, R-134, and Rep. David Kessler, D-130.

Guzzardi writes:
"A reliable vote for Republican Leadership and Ed Rendell, Reichley is a Perzel agent. Rep. Kessler (incumbent Democrat David Kessler 130th) also presented. Not an independent, original or interesting idea between the two of them."
Read the full post, "Rich Stine, Democrat, willing to work; willing to learn; unpretentious and authentic" here.

Salary information for teachers, school administrators available online

Let the sunshine in.

We found out a few months ago how much Joe Paterno makes each year ($500,000) and now it's easy to see how much teachers and administrators in all of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts are paid.

The information, which has been difficult to come by for years thanks to the state's antiquated open records law, has been gathered online.

Check out the TONY PHYRILLAS blog for a link to an online database that contains salary information for 120,000 Pennsylvania teachers and 31,000 school administrators.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Get property taxes off the back burner

A guest column today from David Baldinger of the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition on the group's effort to get property tax elimination off the back burner in the state Legislature.

The Real Faces of the Issue

I recently came across a quote from former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner that truly describes the political situation in Harrisburg: "Politics is the only business where doing nothing other than making the other guy look bad is an acceptable outcome."

Gov. Warner's statement accurately describes the reason why the school property tax elimination issue continues in limbo in Harrisburg: self-serving political gamesmanship that ignores the needs of the people in favor of political gain. But if you're willing to participate, today's Action Item can be a great help in moving the property tax issue past the games and into the forefront of the Harrisburg agenda.

There have been recent announcements from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives where lawmakers tout their agenda for healthcare reform, energy reform, and leasing the Turnpike — all designed to grab headlines before the elections. But NOTHING is being said about property tax reform because NOTHING is being done about what is probably the most urgent issue facing Pennsylvanians today.

It's my opinion that many lawmakers tend to view these issues in the abstract, seeing them simply as pawns to be played on the chessboard of Harrisburg election year politics rather than considering how these problems affect the lives of the people that they supposedly represent.

It's time to show the lawmakers the REAL faces of the property tax issue to let them know how their political games affect the lives of REAL people!

The Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition and Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations are collecting real-life stories of folks who are in distress from relentlessly increasing school property taxes. These stories will be compiled into one document to be presented to legislative leaders and the governor as examples of how their procrastination on this issue is destroying the lives of Pennsylvania homeowners – both working families and retirees.

During the next few days PLEASE send a paragraph or two to the PTCC that tells how out-of-control school property taxes are affecting your and your family's quality of life. You may sign the letter if you choose or submit it anonymously, but please at least indicate your county of residence. If you have neighbors or friends who are experiencing financial difficulties because of the property tax problem, please have them send their stories as well.

Send your letters to pataxpayers@gmail.com

The compilation as submitted to the lawmakers will be posted on the PTCC Web site when it's completed.

David Baldinger
PTCC Administrator

Monday, March 24, 2008

Basket Bingo at Fleetwood Grange for a worthy cause

Mark your calendars.

The Berks County Grange will be holding a Longaberger Basket Bingo on
Friday, May 9, 2008, at the Fleetwood Grange Hall.

The bingo will start at 6:30 PM. (Doors open at 5:15 PM.)

Tickets are $20 if purchased in advance, or $25 at the door. Each
ticket will include a hot dog, soda, and a chance at a door prize.

For those who have not been to a Basket Bingo before, you get to play
about 15 games of bingo, with Longaberger baskets as the prizes.

The Fleetwood Grange Hall is located on route 662 in Fleetwood.
(http://www.fleetwoodgrange.org)

Food and baked goods will be available for purchase at the event. All
proceeds will go to Joe Santos and family. (The family needs help since Joe Santos was diagnosed with cancer.)

For tickets (or questions) please contact Tom or Laura Wike at 610-404-7367.

Tony Phyrillas ranked No. 1 blogger

No. 1 again?

Yes faithful readers, TONY PHYRILLAS is the No. 1 ranked blog on the BlogNetNews.com "Most Influential Political Blogs in Pennsylvania" listing for the second week in a row.

It's the second time in 2008 that I've finished No. 1 in back-to-back weeks, but who's counting?

Well, if you must know, I've held the No. 1 spot four of the past five weeks ... and finished in the TOP 5 every week so far in 2008.

I'm pleased to see my buddies at PaWaterCooler.com right behind me in the No. 2 spot and WRITEMARSH! finishing in the Top 5. The rest of the list is populated by typical liberal blogs.

For the full list, go to www.blognetnews.com/Pennsylvania

Here's this week's TOP 10:

Pennsylvania's Most Influential Political blogs
Rank Blog Prev

1 TONY PHYRILLAS 1
2 Pawatercooler.com 6
3 The Carbolic Smoke Ball 7
4 Suburban Guerrilla 4
5 WRITEMARSH! -
6 Pennsyltucky Politics 15
7 The Pennsylvania Progressive 3
8 Pennsylvania Ave. 11
9 Comments From Left Field 9
10 Attytood 5

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fuhs runs for Pennsylvania's 11th Senate District

Richard Nixon was in the White House and the United States was in Vietnam when Democrat Mike O'Pake went to Harrisburg.

Nearly 40 years later, O'Pake is still a member of the status quo political class in Harrisburg, having served two terms in the state House and nine terms in the state Senate.

O'Pake, a 68-year-old lawyer from Reading, wants to return to the state Senate for another four years.

The only person standing in his way is Stephen P. Fuhs, a reform candidate and the only Republican member of Reading City Council.

Fuhs is seeking the GOP nomination for the 11th state Senate seat on April 22. Like O'Pake, he is running unopposed in the primary. The two men will square off in November for the 11th Senate District, which covers the City of Reading, its suburbs and most of eastern Berks County.

Fuhs, a 58-year-old former banking executive, has extensive private and public sector experience, including working for the U.S. Secret Service.

If elected, Fuhs goals are to eliminate property taxes, reduce the cost of state government, promote economic growth by making Pennsylvania more business friendly, and preserve farmland.

O'Pake voted for the July 2005 legislative pay raise and took the money early as unvouchered expenses, a practice ruled unconstitutional by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Read more about Fuhs in The Mercury.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fuhs offers change for Berks County voters

If you're not happy with the Harrisburg status quo of more spending and higher taxes, you have a choice in 2008.

Reading City Councilman Stephen Fuhs, a Republican, is challenging Democrat Mike O'Pake for the 11th state Senate District, which covers Reading and eastern Berks County.

O'Pake has held the seat for the past 36 years.

Read more about Fuhs in this recent profile in the Reading Eagle.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Phyrillas to attend Pennsylvania Leadership Conference

Tony Phyrillas has been invited to take part in a panel discussion at the 2008 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, the largest gathering of conservatives in Pennsylvania.

Phyrillas will be part of a panel headlined "Pundits, Pollsters & Policy" to be moderated by Lowman Henry of the Lincoln Institute. The event is scheduled for Friday, April 25, at 2 p.m.

In addition to Tony Phyrillas, award-winning political columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, the panel features Amanda Carpenter of TownHall.com; Ryan Shafik of the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research; and Sue Henry of WILK radio in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton/Hazleton area.

The two-day event will take place April 25-26 in Harrisburg. Among the big-name speakers slated for the conference are Michelle Malkin, Pat Toomey, Dr. Paul Kengor, Michael Steele, Mayor Lou Barletta and Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett.

For a full list of speakers and events, check out the PA Leadership Conference Web site.

The site also offers details on how you can attend the conference.

Friday, March 14, 2008

How hard does your state legislator work?

Pennsylvania's per-capita personal income is $34,937 a year. The starting salary of a Pennsylvania legislator is $76,163 — more than twice the per-capita income of Pennsylvania residents.

According to DemocracyRisingPA, a government watchdog group based in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania House was in session for a total of 90 days over the past 14 months. The Senate put in 105 voting days over the same 14 months.
That's an average of 98 session days over 14 months when the Legislature could have been in session for a total of 280 days. (Most Pennsylvania workers put in at least five days a week at work, so I multiplied 20 work days in a month times 14 months. You should know that the Legislature rarely works more than four consecutive days in a week and a three-day week in Harrisburg is typical.)

Lawmakers will argue they work full-time, even when the Legislature is not in session, but how hard do they really work? Is attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the mall really work? How about hosting a breakfast meeting for constituents on a Saturday morning? Sure it's time lawmakers give up from their personal life, but it's not exactly heavy lifting. And if Pennsylvania lawmakers work so hard, why do they need 3,000 full-time staffers when they say they do so much work themselves?

The cost of running the Pennsylvania Legislature is $334 million a year.

The point I'm trying to make is that Pennsylvania lawmakers are paid a base salary of $76,163 for what most people would consider a part-time job. When you factor in all the other perks and benefits of the job, it costs taxpayers about $150,000 a year to support each of the 253 members of the Pennsylvania Legislature.

I'm not the only one who sees it that way.

DemocracyRisingPA founder Tim Potts recently put together an analysis of the time lawmakers spend on the job. He called his piece, "Full-Time Cost, Part-Time Work."

"As a few lawmakers know, Pennsylvania's legislature has the most expensive payroll and consumes the largest percentage of the state budget of any legislature in America," Potts writes. "We also have the largest full-time staff except for New York, and our cost-per-citizen is twice the cost of New York and nearly three times the cost of California."

Potts is not your typical citizen watchdog who observes the Legislature from the sidelines. Potts has been described as the "ultimate Harrisburg insider" by The Tribune-Review in Pittsburgh, which profiled Potts after he emerged as one of the leaders of the reform movement.

Potts was a confidential adviser to 12 state Cabinet secretaries in the departments of public welfare, commerce and education before he went to work for the Legislature, where he was communications director for House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese, for eight years, according to the newspaper. DeWeese has been the House majority leader since January 2007.

These are the figures Potts came up with after a 14-month analysis of the Pennsylvania Legislature to see "what we’re getting for our money."

Bills introduced: 3,552

Laws enacted: 118 (including 39 budget bills)

Voting Days of Session House 90; Senate 105

Much of the work of lawmakers takes place in committees, so Potts took a look at the 48 standing committees (26 in the House, 22 in the Senate):

More than half of the committees in each chamber have reported out 2 or fewer bills per month in the past 14 months.

Most committees have reported out fewer than one-fourth of the bills they received.

But here's the best part, Potts says. Two committees have received no bills and held no hearings in the past 14 months.

Which ones? The House Ethics Committee and the Senate Ethics Committee, Potts says.

You should also know that committee chairpersons are paid more each year, even if their committees never meet.

Working hard or hardly working?

Pennsylvania voters can have their say on incumbents state lawmakers on April 22 and Nov. 4. All 203 House seats and half of the 50 Senate seats are on the ballot this year. Most incumbents are seeking reelection to their part-time jobs. You can decide if they need to find real work by voting out the political class.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Property tax shell game continues

Nine Berks County school districts are among 102 districts that will not have to obtain voter permission to raise school property taxes above an inflation rate set by the state.

Read more about the property tax shell game the state is playing with taxpayers at TONY PHYRILLAS.

Also keep in mind that state Rep. Dante Santoni, state Rep. Tom Caltagirone and state Sen. Michael A. O'Pake -- all Democrats seeking reelection in 2008 -- voted in favor of Act 1, which was suppose to cap property tax increases by local school districts. It's not happening. Just more empty promises from career politicians.

Birdsboro pastor seeks 130th House District nomination

Aaron J. Durso, a member of the Birdsboro Borough Council and pastor of LOVE Christian Fellowship Church, wants to be the next state representative in the 130th District.

Durso is one of three Republicans seeking their party nomination in the April 22 primary election.

The winner will challenge Rep. David Kessler of Oley, who won the 130th District seat in 2006. The seat was previously held by Republican state Rep. Dennis Leh for 20 years.

Read more about Durso in The Mercury.

Gokey seeks nomination in 130th House District

Amity Township Supervisor Richard L. Gokey is the latest Republican to announce his candidacy for the 130th District House seat.

The seat was held by state Rep. Dennis Leh for 20 years until it was lost to Democrat David Kessler of Oley in 2006.

Republicans want to take it back. Three GOP candidates are on the April 22 ballot.

Read more about Gokey in The Mercury.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

O'Pake, Caltagirone, Santoni flunk Liberty Index

Three Democratic dinosaurs have represented parts of Berks County in the state Legislature for a combined total of 85 years.

Voters, mostly Democrats, keep sending Sen. Mike O'Pake, Rep. Tom Caltagirone and Rep. Dante Santoni back to Harrisburg year after year.

What kind of job are O'Pake, Caltagirone and Santoni doing for their constituents?

An independent assessment of voting records by all incumbent state lawmakers shows that the Berks trio has one of the worst records when it comes to looking out for the economic interests of their constituents.

O'Pake earned a grade of D- but that was better than his co-horts. Caltagirone and Santoni were awarded grades of F- on the Liberty Index report card.

All three career politicians are seeking re-election in 2008.

Read more about the Liberty Index rankings in The Mercury.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rohrer wants another term in state House

Rep. Sam Rohrer is seeking another term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, according to The Reading Eagle.

Rohrer, a Republican, has represented the 128th Legislative District in Berks County since 1993.

Rohrer told the newspaper he will continue to focus on eliminating property taxes if elected to a new two-year term.

Find out more about where Rohrer stands on other issues at his Web site, http://www.samrohrer.com/

The 128th District includes Mohnton, New Morgan, Shillington, Wyomissing boroughs and Brecknock, Caernarvon, Cumru, Exeter, Robeson and Spring townships.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Democrats' voter-fraud industry

One of the most under-reported stories is how Democrats cheat when it comes to voter registration.

This is why Democrats are so opposed to tougher voter ID laws. They don't want to give up their edge with dead people and illegal aliens voting for Democratic candidates.

Here's an interesting article from the Reading Eagle about a Berks County man found guilty of turning in phony registration forms on behalf of Democrats.

Take some time and search the Web about ACORN (Association of Communities for Reform Now), a pro-Democratic Party group that has been accused of voter fraud in almost every state.

This story doesn't get much coverage because the mainstream liberal media also wants Democrats to win elections, even if the party cheats.