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Monday, September 26, 2005

Enemies of the state: Pennsylvania’s pay raise villains

Technically speaking, Pennsylvania is a commonwealth, but who ever heard of the phrase "enemy of the commonwealth?" If you want to know what’s wrong with Pennsylvania, you need to look no further than its leadership. Below is a capsule look at the politicians behind the pay grab of 2005 and the people who run the worst state government this side of Louisiana. If you want to know what’s wrong with Pennsylvania, you need to look no further than its leadership. Here’s a look at the politicians behind the pay grab of 2005:

JOHN PERZEL — The most powerful politician in Pennsylvania is also the most arrogant and ignorant man ever to hold such high state office. Perzel, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, is the pied piper who led unsuspecting rank-and-file lawmakers to support the pay raise, then took off for a junket to China so the foot soldiers could take the heat. When he finally got back to his home base of Philadelphia from China (followed by vacations in Bermuda and Italy for more rest and relaxation), Perzel first claimed he didn’t know anything about the pay hike furor that has dominated the news for two months. Then he came up with some nutty story about migrant farm workers in Lancaster County making $50,000 a year, so he deserves to get paid three times that much. Perzel is a loon and an embarrassment to the Republican Party. He needs to go.

JUDGE RALPH CAPPY — The chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court all but admitted he orchestrated the pay raise debacle in a back-room deal with Perzel and Gov. Ed Rendell. It will be up to the state judicial ethics committee to determine the propriety of the state’s top judge working out a secret deal with the legislative and executive branches to hike his salary. His involvement in the pay raise travesty is unseemly at best. Revelations that Cappy and his fellow justices have billed taxpayers $164,000 in food, travel and lodging expenses (on top of their $170,000 a year salaries) is more proof that Cappy couldn’t care less for Pennsylvania taxpayers as long as he’s living in the lap of luxury. Cappy is not on the ballot any time soon, but there will be two Supreme Court judges seeking retention votes in November and two more judges on the November 2006 ballot. Vote "no" on all four judges to send a message to Cappy that no one is above the law.

ED RENDELL — Just months after a Washington, D.C.-based think tank gave Rendell an "F" for his economic policies, just weeks after the majority of Pennsylvania school boards rejected his Act 72 tax reform farce, Rendell gets himself embroiled in the pay raise fiasco. Is he trying to be a one-term governor? He’s already a part-time governor. Rendell spends more time from September to January concentrating on his other job as an Eagles football commentator than he does on state business. Maybe voters should do Rendell a favor and relieve him of his time-consuming duties as governor when he faces reelection. Former Lt. Gov. William Scranton, who will challenge Rendell in 2006, has already called for a repeal of the legislative pay hikes and a reduction in the number of legislators. That’s enough to earn my vote. This is what you need to know about Fast Eddie Rendell. On June 8, he told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he would never sign off on a pay raise for the legislature unless it approved an increase in the state’s minimum wage. On July 8, Rendell signed the pay raise bill for the legislature and himself even though there was no increase in the minimum wage. Around Aug. 8, Rendell was booed at a county fair as he waited in line to grab some food. He came out against the pay raise that he signed and defended a few weeks earlier. Fast forward to Labor Day and Rendell says the legislature must increase the state’s minimum wage. Where does Rendell stand on an issue? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind. The political wind. Rendell will say anything to anyone to get a vote. Gov. Scranton sure has a ring to it, doesn’t it?

ROBERT JUBILIRER — This is the Republican leader of the state Senate. A career politician from Altoona (with 30 years on the public payroll), Jubilirer is a junior version of Perzel, not quite as arrogant or ignorant, but trying to get there. Jubilirer’s wife is a state judge who also gets a hefty pay raise under the July 7 pay grab. The good news is that Jubilirer is up for reelection in 2006. Voters will get a chance to retire him permanently.

SECOND-TIER ‘BOSSES’ — The top bosses, those pocketing pay raises of 34 percent to 54 percent, won’t give the money back. They’re willing to sacrifice as many rank-and-file legislators as needed to calm the voters. The bosses are secure in districts carved out specifically for them. If you see any of these names on a ballot — Senate Majority Leader David J. Brightbill, Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Mellow, Senate Minority Whip Michael A. O’Pake, House Majority Leader Samuel H. Smith, House Minority Leader William DeWeese, House Majority Whip David G. Argall, House Minority Whip Mike Veon — write in "Mickey Mouse" instead. Mickey can’t do any worse than these rats.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com

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