Up until this week, the U.S. Congress held the title for being the most gridlocked institution of democracy in the free world. That is until a $680 billion tax bill got done, along with a $1.6 trillion budget that averts a government shutdown. So, now that the Federal City is on firm ground, who holds the new title for most gridlocked institution?
Oh, hello Pennsylvania! We didn’t see you standing there! As we compose this morning’s tome, it occurs to us that this whole thing may just be a fool’s errand. As dawn splashed across Harrisburg on December 18th, there is still no state budget, still no pension reform, and no liquor reform. The week began with the Senate saying the House needed to pass the framework budget that has now been framed for almost three weeks. The House said “Show us the money.”
The very next day, members of the House began grumbling that there were not enough votes in the House to stop the framework budget, and for a brief, shining moment, it looked like Christmas would come to Whoville. Not so fast, Jack Spratt. Put back that can of Who Hash.
House leaders then gave the Governor 24 hours to round up the necessary votes to pass the tax bill that would cover the cost of the framework budget. So they called in Jack Bauer. Should Jack’s efforts fail, the House had another stopgap ready to be voted, which the Senate said they would not pass and the governor…well, who knows.
And so last night, the festivities came to a head as the House abruptly slammed the door on the agreed-to pension bill (“agreed-to” means very little these days) and that was that. There would be no pension vote, and the specter of a tax bill being voted floated into the either.
Speaking of pensions, the agency in charge of calculating the impact of pension legislation said late last night that the latest iteration of pension reform really won’t save the systems any appreciable money, but rather shifts the risk away from taxpayers. So after years of kicking around bills that saved 10, 11 or even 12 billion dollars, the General Assembly is now faced with a plan that has fiscal savings in the millions, not billions. Remind us why we are doing this again? We forgot.
Against this backdrop, we have schools announcing that they may close their doors after Christmas due to lack of funds. It is about to get very real for the wee ones across the state.
Human service agencies are also on their collective last legs, and many have stopped providing services altogether. The heads of those nonprofits (the real ones, not the multi-billion dollar hospital/health system nonprofits) kept up their pleas for relief this week.
Even the film industry in western Pennsylvania has taken a hit, as the shutdown of the state’s Film Tax Credit is costing jobs, we learned today.
So it now looks like the House will be in Session today and perhaps all weekend, with the Senate coming to town whenever something makes it out of the House. As we said, fool’s errand. Now to the rest of the news…
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale this week demolished the Department of Community and Economic Development’s claim that it aids the state’s poorest citizens. Many programs under the former gubernatorial administration did not seem to make driving out housing and utility assistance money a priority, although more than a million dollars sat available.
A new report came out this week telling us that pharmacists are a vital, often last line of defense against opioid addiction. Did anyone really need a report to learn that the people who dispense opioids are a pretty vital link in the chain?
Pittsburgh City Council this week passed a budget that would hike fees for landlords, which caused the head of one association to call this action a “declaration of war.” Given what is going on in the world today, how about we tone down the war rhetoric? It is a fee, not a drone strike.
As the unusually warm weather persists in the northeast, fuel prices continue to hover near the ground, we learned this week. Devotees of climate change theories are no doubt going to point out that warm weather hurting fossil fuel prices is kind of ironic when you think about it.
Zagat has named Pittsburgh the number one food destination in the entire country. That’s right, New York, Boston and Chicago; read it and weep, babies. Pittsburgh is more than French fries on your sandwich!
A New Jersey inmate has earned the nickname Johnny Sue-nami for filing over 700 Right to Know requests from state and federal government agencies. One such request sought, among other things, information on Kim Kardashian, whom he claims took his virginity. Swamping offices with RTK requests has spurred a Pennsylvania lawmaker to try and crack down on inmate abuses.
In our We Can’t Make This Up section, we give you one of the world’s leading scumbags, Martin Shkreli, who famously purchased a company that sells AIDS treatment drugs and jacked up the price by 700%. The self-proclaimed “Pharma Bro” got pinched by the SEC this week for suspected securities fraud and now faces up to 20 years in prison. Looks like somebody’s karma has run over his dogma…
That’s what passes for news around here as we spend yet another day hoping for a happy ending to 2015. From all your friends at Triad, have a great weekend!
The Triadvocate is a publication of Triad Strategies, LLC, a bipartisan lobbying, public affairs, strategic communications, grassroots advocacy, issue management consulting firm located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh