Thursday, December 18, 2014

Legislative leftovers

With the state budget done and sent to Gov. Corbett, here's a look at what lawmakers left undone.

Legislative leftovers

Let's see what they left behind.

State lawmakers adjourned until mid-September after delivering a no-new-taxes budget to Gov. Corbett's desk and after leaving the Philly cigs tax issue unresolved in a way that threatens the opening of city schools this fall.

But they also left behind a litany of unfinished and, for those who care about government reforms, much-wished-for actions.

Pension reform: no action despite growing costs, indebtedness and possible bond-rating downgrades.

The runaway price of providing a level of benefits for public employees, including lawmakers, that almost nobody in the private sector has anymore, just keeps running away.

Liquor reform: no action despite broad public support for change of a control system in place since 1933.

For context, sliced bread was invented in 1928.

Education-funding reform: no action unless you count yet another commission to study the problem and offer recommendations next year.

Recommendations from a similar study were offered in 2008. Guess what happened to them.

Legislative reform: no action despite several bills calling for action.

Bills to reduce the Legislature's size died even though sponsors are legislative leaders. You don't think a fix was in?

Bills to take lawmakers and other elected state officials out of generous pension plans also died. You don't think a fix was in?

Bills to ban cash gifts go no action despite a state sting recording lawmakers accepting cash gifts. I think I fix was in.

And, of course, no action on broader reforms such as term limits, campaign contribution limits, ending automatic annual pay raises for lawmakers, requiring receipts for expenses, redistricting reforms, etc., etc.

In other words, the low expectations of Pennsylvania voters and taxpayers once again are met.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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