Gov. Ed Rendell has signed a lot of bad legislation during his first four years in Harrisburg.
In 2003, Rendell put his signature on a $1 billion increase in the state income tax that put the breaks on economic growth in Pennsylvania while much of the rest of the nation has experienced a booming economy.
In 2004, Rendell signed a bill that ushered in the era of casino gambling to the Keystone State, but the bill was so poorly drafted that we still don't have tangible signs of gaming today other than the bureaucracy Rendell set up to administer gambling. But the Gaming Board is so inept that it's unlikely the state will see any revenues until 2009 or 2010 at the earliest.
The companion legislation to gambling was Act 72, Rendell's hair-brained scheme to fund public education using those pie-in-the-sky gambling revenues. The law was so full of ambiguity and loopholes that it was rejected by 80 percent of the state's school boards.
In July 2005, Rendell signed the infamous pay raise bill into law, giving himself, judges and the bloated state legislature raises of 16 percent to 54 percent. We know how well that turned out.
Pennsylvania residents were so outraged by the middle-of-the-night pay grab that they tossed out a state Supreme Court justice seeking retention vote in November 2005. Voter anger continued through the May primary when voters threw out 17 incumbent legislators, including the two most powerful men in the state Senate.
There's plenty of other ways Rendell has hit working Pennsylvanians where it hurts — in the wallet.
Under Rendell, the state gasoline tax has risen to 32 cents per gallon, the second highest in the nation. Fees to inspect your car or to go hunting and fishing or just to have a piece of paper notarized have jumped to record highs under Rendell, a classic tax-and-spend liberal who believes government should take more of your money and spend it any way it wants.
And don't get me started on the state liquor store system that Rendell loves so much. Pennsylvanians who want to enjoy a bottle of wine or other spirits have to buy from a state-run monopoly that rivals the Soviet Union for mismanagement and price gouging.
Rendell apologists are quick to point out that all bills came out of the Republican-controlled legislature. True, but none of the bills mentioned could become law until Rendell signs them. The governor can veto any legislation that isn't in the best interest of Pennsylvania residents, a priority that generally finishes a distant second behind Rendell's personal political interests.
Republicans don't have enough of a majority in either chamber of the state legislature to override any of Rendell's veto because the lockstep Democrats always back Rendell, so the buck stops with the governor.
Sadly, Rendell's biggest allies in the legislature appear to be Republicans, who share equal responsibility for the sad state of Pennsylvania affairs.
Without the help of Senate Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, Senate Majority Leader Chip Brightbill and House Speaker John Perzel — the top three Republicans in the legislature — Rendell would never have been able to get his liberal agenda through the General Assembly.
Take note that Jubelirer and Brightbill were voted out of office May 16 by Republican primary voters in their respective home districts and Perzel (rhymes with Rendell) has to get through the November election unscathed to continue assisting his good pal and fellow Philadelphian, Ed Rendell.
Another bad piece of legislation Rendell signed into law was almost forgotten until a recent traffic accident involving the star quarterback of Pennsylvania's best football team. (Hint: It wasn't Donovan McNabb).
Rendell signed a bill in 2003 that repealed a 35-year-old law that required Pennsylvania motorcyclists to wear helmets. The helmet law repeal made absolutely no sense, but Rendell couldn't pass up an opportunity to kiss up to a few thrill-seekers who don't want to wear helmets while hurtling through the state's highways at 80 mph with only their skulls to protect their brains from macadam.
Rendell's repeal of the helmet law has resulted in hundreds of serious crashes involving motorcycle riders who died or suffered serious injuries.
The most publicized crash was June 12 when Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle sans helmet.
State law requires that motorists wear seatbelts or face fines if they're pulled over for other infractions. There are laws protecting infants and children riding in cars. Kids riding bicycles must wear helmets. Why would you allow a motorcyclist to ride without a helmet?
Just like the people who choose to ride without helmets, you have to wonder about Rendell's impaired judgment when it comes to signing bills into law. Rendell's record of failure speaks for itself. Pennsylvania can't afford four more years of Ed Rendell.
E-mail Tony Phyrillas at firstname.lastname@example.org