Thursday, October 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Pennsylvania's name game

Even changing the name of a state department can become problematic in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania's name game

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

JB: Yo, chief, see that Inky story Monday about changing the name of the state Department of Public Welfare?

BE: I did. Seems a good idea.

JB: Which probably dooms it, right? It's before our Legislature.

BE: Yeah, but this appears easy. Not like privatizing booze or fixing roads and bridges or solving the pension crisis or improving public education or....

JB: Whoa, whoa, let's not get ahead of oursleves. If you take on problems like changing the names of state departments and then actually do it, it looks like you're getting something done.

BE: Fair point.

JB: Besides, the Inky piece says the current name can be stigmatizing to many of the folks benefitting from $11 billion worth of social programs.

BE: Maybe so. But if somebody wants to benefit me, they can call it anything they like.

JB: Yeah, but shouldn't we move our state into the present? Only one other state, Idaho, still has the word "welfare" in it human-services agency.

BE: Hey, just like only one other state, Utah, still controls booze at all levels.

JB: One problem at a time.

BE: What about the cost of making the change? That seems to be an issue.

JB: More than that. It seems to be an issue nobody has a handle on. The Inky story says a 2010 legislative estimate put the cost of change at $500,000. But the Welfare Department puts the cost at $7 million to $8 million.

BE: Well, Welfare has a bigger budget than the Legislature. And the way you keep big budgets is spend what you get.

JB: Fair point.

BE: The only real danger I see is setting off a name-changing epidemic. You know, the Department of General Disregard for Taxpayers' Money; the Department of We Can Slow Down Any Application for Anything; the Ministry of Silly Walks, you get the idea.

JB: Well, if starts happening I propose we change the state slogan from "The State of Independence" to "The Land of Ongoing Investigations."

 

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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