Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Make it so, Joe

Senate GOP boss Joe Scarnati wants to start giving back some slush fund money.

Make it so, Joe

(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

JB: From the Temple of Doom on the Susquehanna, a.k.a. the state Capitol, comes a ray of sunshine, a beacon of light.

BE: What, the toilets work again?

JB: They do. But I'm speaking of word from a top Republican Senate leader, Senate President Joe Scarnati, who says he's "reforming the way business is done in Harrisburg."

BE: The way "business" is  done? Is this a toilet thing? Is he bringing in permanent Porta-potties?

JB; No. No. In a press release issued yesterday from faraway Warren, which I think is west of Cleveland but still somehow in Scarnati's district, the GOP bossman says he's re-introduced legislation to move money out of lawmakers' "reserve" fund, a.k.a. their private, slush fund, and put it into the General Fund because, he says, "For too long the General Assembly has carried an amount of taxpayer money in a reserve account that exceeds the necessary total."

BE: What necessary total?

JB: He doesn't say.

BE: How much in tax dollars is he talking about?

JB: He doesn't say.

BE: How much would he give back to the General Fund?

JB: He doesn't say.

BE: Doesn't his legislation say?

JB: The statement says the bill is Senate Bill 1000. The legislature's website says there's no such bill.

BE: Well, there must be a contact person on the press release. What's the contact person say?

JB: The contact person didn't return a phone call or an email yesterday.

BE: A ghost bill!

JB: Hold on. The statement says the bill would allow the legislature to keep a "reserve" large enough to operate for four months, you know, in case of "emergencies."

BE: Isn't four months about as long as it operates now? And what "emergencies?" War with Ohio over the size of Scarnati's district? Extended periods without rest rooms?

JB: I figure since the legislature's annual budget is around $300 million or $25 million a month, he's talking about keeping $100 million in "reserve" for "emergencies."

BE: How much is in "reserve" now?

JB: The last audit showed $188 million.

BE: So, if there's actually a bill, and it actually passes both chambers, the General Fund budget gains $88 million, right?

JB: Right. But this has been tried before. Remember, he's "reintroduced" the measure.

BE: Well what happened when it was tried before?

JB: It went nowhere.

BE: Grrrrr.

JB: Exactly.


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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