Look, I know you don’t want to do this but it’s such a good opportunity.
With your lawmakers out of session for two weeks, it’s a perfect time to reach out and touch them.
They’re off for a much-needed rest after being in Harrisburg crafting really important laws to improve the quality of your life … no, wait, that can’t be right.
They’re off for Easter/Passover break just like their lovable counterparts in Congress. You know how it works: You get a day, maybe two around a holiday; your elected officials get a week, maybe two.
Anyway, I propose using this time to contact lawmakers. Call, write, email, ask questions (or vent), and maybe get some answers.
It’s easy. If you don’t know your lawmakers, go to the General Assembly’s website (legis.state.pa.us), go to “Find My Legislator,” click on “Your Address,” type your address and, voila, names and links for your guys and gals (though this IS Pennsylvania, so mostly guys).
Now, I know you’re thinking, why do this? Isn’t it a waste of time? Aren’t my legislators shapeless shadows zombie-walking through bogs of polluted politics?
Well, yeah. But hear me out. The state budget’s important; what’s happening with it’s worth attention.
Gov. Wolf’s proposing huge spending cuts. The GOP-controlled House just passed bigger cuts. The GOP-controlled Senate now gets the House-passed mess. And while there’s nothing wrong with cutting government — we’ve got too much of it — a lot of these cuts are plain bull. And nobody’s offering realistic revenue to fill deepening holes in the current budget or reduce a $3 billion deficit.
Instead, the skids are getting greased for another phony-baloney fiscal plan to pass before, on, or near the June 30 deadline that, once again, likely ignores property taxes, pension reform, or any reform of a sorry system that sees “solutions” as merely shifting problems to already-strapped local governments.
Also, Wolf wants $1 billion in new taxes, mostly on business and natural gas, which he’s not going to get from a business-friendly, gas-friendly legislature.
The House wants cuts in mandated-by-law social and justice programs administered by counties, which (if enacted) would force counties to raise local taxes, including property taxes.
And new (if suspect and wildly optimistic) revenue to fix budget ills comes from expanded gaming and liquor privatization because, as you know, more access to gambling and booze is just what Pennsylvania needs most.
Why this dance and dereliction of duty?
Wolf and lawmakers learned the lessons of political success in Pennsylvania: don’t raise broad-based taxes; don’t engage in budget battles; remain under the radar.
And by the time the local impact of irresponsible budgeting hits home, everyone’s reelected, mostly by keeping quiet — and hoping you never see the link between bad politics and bad policy.
So here’s the challenge: Contact your lawmaker or Wolf (governor.pa.gov). If you don’t have a specific question or gripe, use some of mine.
Ask about lawmakers’ fat slush fund, or why they misuse your gas taxes, or why they get automatic raises, why there are no campaign-finance limits, or no term limits, or why we rank among America’s worst-run states — in a survey in which we dropped for five straight years.
See if you can find out how exactly $2 billion-plus in state spending can all at once go away; and, if it can, why didn’t it last year, or the year before or ever?
And, of course, ask about a budget process in a broken system driven by self-protective politics rather than public interest.
Let me know how you do. Email me responses you get. Seriously, I’m curious. I crave new answers. The ones I’ve gotten over the years are worthless.