Some 2,451,830 Pennsylvania voters cast ballots for Gov. Ed Rendell on Nov. 7. But I haven't been able to find a single person willing to admit they voted for Rendell.
Why do so many people regret giving Rendell a second term? What if people realize they made a mistake the day after the polls closed? What if the governor starts behaving badly after winning a second term. One Philadelphia columnist has come up with a new nickname for "Fast Eddie." He's now calling Rendell "Crazy Eddie."
Maybe we should have a 30-day return policy on election returns. Can't voters change their mind before Rendell is sworn in to a second term?
Here's what Gov. Rendell has been up to since Election Day.
1) He vetoed a bill that would have allowed communities to spread out collecting of the $52 local services tax, effectively slapping Pennsylvania workers in the face. Instead of giving municipalities the ability to spread out the tax burden (maybe even $1 a week), Rendell wants the $52 to come out of your first pay check in 2007.
2) A week after the election, Rendell floated a trail balloon about raising the state gas tax (already the second-highest in the nation) by 12.5 cents. That would accompany raising vehicle registration fees and driver's license fees. And Rendell wouldn't mind seeing an increase in the realty transfer tax.
3) Rendell signed a bill (passed without debate by the Legislature) to permit casinos to serve free booze to gamblers.
4) Rendell appointed his favorite lobbyist (the guy who gets free rides on Rendell's private plane) to a committee that is supposed to draft new lobbyist disclosure regulations. Talk about the fox guarding the chicken coop. Rendell's pick, lawyer and lobbyist Richard Gmerek, is the same man responsible for getting the state's last lobbyist disclosure overturned in court.
5) Rendell accepted a pay raise on Dec. 1, boosting his salary from $161,173 to $164,396 a year.
6) Rendell gave one of his political pals, Joe Conti, a $150,000-a-year job as CEO of the Pennsylvania's liquor store monopoly. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has operated without a CEO for decades and already has a three-member board overseeing the operation. Each of those board members makes $65,000 a year. But Rendell gave Conti a job without telling the three board members ahead of time. While Conti is a Republican, he is credited with helping push through Rendell's agenda (tax increases, casino gambling, the pay raise) through the Senate. In Rendell's world, party affiliation doesn't matter. If you scratch Fast Eddie's back, he'll reward you with a taxpayer-funded job (see Joe Hoeffel). Conti, by the way, chose to retire as a state senator and collect a big fat pension instead of facing the voters this year. But Uncle Eddie took care of him and sent you the bill.
7) Rendell has proposed turning over the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private company in order to raise more money for his out-of-control spending.
8) Rendell has hinted he wants to raise the state sales tax in 2007. Not to cut property taxes, but to raise more money for his pet projects.
I didn't vote for Rendell. And judging from the letters and calls to The Mercury, nobody else is willing to admit voting for Rendell either.
Here's a sampling of recent reader comments about the governor:
"You asked for it. For all those who wanted "Slick Eddie" for four more years, grab your ankles. Not a week since the election and he was thinking of new taxes to help Philadelphia. Then he vetoed a bill that would allow you to pay a new $52 tax weekly (a new tax that was not mentioned prior to the election). He now wants to raise vehicle registration fees and the gas tax. This past election, voters imposed their own form of term limits. Do not forget that as your taxes go up over the next four years, you asked for it."
"Only five days since Fast Eddie Rendell was re-elected and already it looks like a tax increase on gas plus an increase for vehicle registration. I guess what really surprises me is that it took as long as it did. Way to go all you idiots who voted for him. He lied again and you fools believed him."
"I hope all you people who voted for Rendell are happy. He's only in office a week and already they're proposing higher taxes for gas and other taxes, too."
"Gov. Ed Rendell, the tax man, is on his way. He said he's moving Pennsylvania forward. Yes, he is — more gas tax, registration increase, who knows what other taxes. If he would not have given that federal money to Philadelphia for their transit, we wouldn't have to worry about taxes; the roads could have been repaired. He doesn't care about Pennsylvania; all he worries about is Philadelphia. Thanks Democrats for voting him in."
"Gee, what a surprise, announcing the tax hike right after the election. Ed never met a tax he didn't like."
"Gov. Rendell took millions of dollars in federal highway funds that should have gone to replace and repair our roadways and gave them to his cronies in Philadelphia SEPTA to buy some Democratic votes. He also very conveniently didn't mention this until well after the election. So people have a right to complain about Rendell. They were told he was a tax and spender and now it's coming true."
"Funny Rendell didn't manage to get his gas tax hike proposal in before the elections. Now they decide to let us know what they had proposed for us. A little late for our decision on who's to be governor."
"I think it's totally disgusting that they're going to raise gas taxes to fix the roads when the roads have been taxed and taxed and no one improves them. I have driven through most of the states in this union and we have one of the highest gas taxes now. Every other state has much better highways and some without even tolls. This is positively unacceptable."
"Oil is at a 17-month low. One would not know that looking at the rising gas prices recently. I'm not the least bit concerned because I'm just going to sit back and wait for my property tax rebate from the great Gov. Rendell. This will solve all my problems."
"I don't want to pay more in taxes to fund SEPTA and this other transit authority out in Allegheny County. Every time I see a SEPTA bus, the thing is totally empty. It's a joke supporting them. I never ride it and they're just a big traffic nightmare."
"Regarding the state lawmakers getting a 2 percent pay raise for the cost of living, what about the average citizens in Pennsylvania — haven't they been paying more to live for the past five or six years? Don't we deserve a 2 percent raise or deduction in our taxes so we can live better, too, just like you guys do?"
"Rendell gave the money earmarked for roads and highways to SEPTA to buy the Philadelphia vote and now he wants higher fees on cars and gas. If the suits in Harrisburg took a moment away from trying to enhance their income, they would realize the way to solve this is to raise ticket prices. Pennsylvania motorists pay to buy a car, insurance, gas and maintenance. Why should we pay for a system we never use?"
"In reference to the gas hike proposal to fix roads, how come Florida and Delaware can do it without taxing the middle class and the poor? That's all you're going to hurt by raising the tax on the gas. I hope the newly elected people in Harrisburg and Rendell tell this commission to stick it where the sun don't shine."
"Maybe instead of raising the taxes they should change the law so we don't have to pay a prevailing rate to have all these highways built or repaired. That's a little known law that most Pennsylvanians don't know about that the contractor must pay a prevailing rate which makes the highway cost more. If they got rid of that law, like many other states have, they could build a lot more highways for a lot less money."
"The proposed tax hikes to support mass transit is a blatant disregard for the people who do not use those services and have been paying for years just to drive their vehicle. This is totally unconstitutional. It's time they pass the rate increases onto the people who use those services and the money that we drivers are already spending should go to the roads that we use."
"Forget the vehicle registration and license increases, work on property taxes first. That's what you were sent back to Harrisburg to do. If you don't do it, you won't be re-elected. Rendell already gave half a billion dollars to SEPTA and that wasn't enough. Please look out for middle class taxpayers."
"Regarding the fee for vehicle registration and gas tax hike, possibly if we had state emissions for every county in the state, maybe that would help alleviate some of the shortfalls rather than having certain counties being responsible for all the emission testing."
"To those Republicans who said that the Democrats put Rendell in office, look in the mirror pal. A lot of Republicans voted for Rendell because they did not want Swann in office. Read all the papers and documents and you'll see that I am correct."