The state of the state is lousy


The state of the union's not so hot, either -- but this story is a perfect example of why Gov. Corbett currently has the lowest approval rating of any Pennsylvania governor since they started taking the poll. It's not news to anyone who's been unemployed or had a family member suffer through joblessness in recent years.

In a highly critical letter, U.S. Department of Labor officials have rebuked the State of Pennsylvania for "serious compliance issues" in its operation of the unemployment insurance program.

The commonwealth has often underperformed so profoundly in the timely handling of unemployment insurance forms and other matters - many within the last year - that the federal government may consider sanctions that would restrict budget money to the Department of Labor and Industry, according to the letter.

"The lack of timely and approvable forms constitutes a failure to meet the terms and conditions of your federal grant award. . .," said the Dec. 21 letter, obtained by The Inquirer.

This doesn't even take in account the biggest source of angst -- when job seekers call the state's unemployment hot line for days and days and cannot get through. Remember this from last October:

There's a major problem with a state hotline unemployed residents can call to file claims for benefits and resolve issues: The line is constantly busy and has been for weeks.

"I keep calling and it's always busy," said Charles Ondria of Bethlehem, who dialed the hotline on his cellphone, prompting a busy signal. "That's all you get, 24-7."

The jammed-up phone system is not a result of increasing claims. To the contrary, unemployment claims have dropped this year as the job market slowly improves. Instead, the phone problem comes on the heels of budget cuts at Pennsylvania's unemployment call centers, which means fewer people are picking up the phones, said Sara Goulet, a spokeswoman with the Department of Labor and Industry.

"We're working on it," Goulet said of the constant busy signals.

These are the kind of things that can get a governor not-re-elected, even in a state that re-elects its governors without fail. It's one thing to have a philosophy of limited government -- that will get you more or less of half the electorate. But when you have an actual track record of useless government, people will not forgive you for that...even your fellow Republicans who've listened to that damn busy signal for weeks and weeks. Throw some unanswered questions about the Sandusky case onto the fire, and you're probably toast in 2014.