Monday, January 30, 2006

Turns out nobody likes Ted Kennedy

I received about 40 e-mails in response to my recent column, "Ted Kennedy, Clown Prince of the Senate." That’s pretty good. I usually get about a dozen responses on most columns. If you thought I was tough on Teddy, you should see what the rest of the country thinks of him. Here’s a sampling of reader responses (the ones that were clean enough to share):

Letter 1: Loved your piece on Ted Kennedy. You were right on! Amazing that this scumbag is re-elected back into office every time! The people of Massachusetts are certainly not the sharpest razors in the sneaker! Pompous, bloated, raging liberal. Promotes a socialist government because he has the money. Thank you for your insight. I look forward to more of your writings. I am local. Live in Uwchlan Township. Have a great day!

Letter 2: It's amazing how many Americans (especially those in "Taxachussetts" -- LOL) are actually fooled by this jackass.

Letter 3: Keep it coming. What about the "offshore" trust for the Kennedys.

Letter 4: Thank you very, very much for your columns that are published regularly in the Mercury's opinion section. I enjoy reading them and they expose the political left for who they really are. I really like your commentary on left-wing bad-boys like Michael Moore, Ward Churchill, Ted Kennedy, "Little Dick" Durbin, and Jack Murtha. I'm glad someone is there to defend America. I'm also glad someone is there to defend the U.S. Military and its fine men and women who keep us free and secure while putting their lives at risk each and every day. Its funny, you rarely (if ever) hear the left thanking our troops for their sacrifices and for the service they do for this country. Instead, it's rip this, rip that about them and how the U.S. can't do anything right or win its wars. I also find it funny that they claim that they "support the troops, but not the war." If that's the case, why don't you ever see the left asking the troops how they feel about it? They almost always go to some Michael Moore-antiwar type and its almost always that person's opinion that seems to count. Keep up the good work and I hope to continue reading your pieces. Thanks again!

Letter 5: You said exactly, what I have been saying about Ted Kennedy. In my opinion, he is an abomination, and has no business representing the state of Massachusetts. Ted Kennedy is an incompetent boob, and it is a mystery to me how that state keeps reelecting Ted Kennedy or John Kerry. Neither one of them has an ounce of integrity. I would like to get your permission, to put your commentary, on the AOL Message Board. I hear no one explain, on that board, why he keeps getting elected, unless it is the pork, that he doesn't eat. I'm sure be can browbeat the Democrat's into doing his biding. What these mean spirited Senators did to Judge Alito, was unconscionable, and no one should have to go through that. It is no wonder that we can't get decent people to run for Government Offices. Thank you for an excellent commentary.

Letter 6: Thanks for speaking up about the Boston Blimp. He's a revolting excuse for a human being. About four years ago, he made a disgusting pass at a young woman who was serving as a Senate Page. I knew her from her early teens, saw her confirmed at my church, (St. Peter Lutheran of Greenwood Village, CO), and consider her to be of unimpeachable character. He is a corrupt, wretched representative of our Congress, and a disgrace to our nation.

Letter 7: We read all of your columns and really enjoy them. The article on Ted Kennedy (The Clown Prince) was the best yet. How could he possibly question anyone else about their background, when I'm sure he'd be ashamed to answer any questions about his? Please continue what you are doing to expose the democrats. Keep up the good work!

Letter 8: Thank you for saying what every intelligent thinking person in America is biting at the bit to say. Ted Kennedy is an embarrassment to this country and good patriots everywhere. My fantasy is that someday Massachusetts will make this column required reading in all their high schools. Maybe there will be hope for them yet.

Letter 9: A million Kudos and more for Tony Phyrillas and The Mercury newspaper. A great columnist and editors who have the guts to call the recent activity by the Democrat Senator honestly! There are a number of papers who bend over backwards kissing Kennedy’s, and many other politicians, butts by refusing to call their behavior realistically. The Democrats are a joke and act like court jesters, especially Ted Killer/Hic Kennedy. I wish you and your editor continued success and good health and many more years of printing the truth.

Letter 10: I'm from Massachusetts, and this was a beautifully written article. For the record, I've never voted for Ted Kennedy...

Letter 11: Thank you for having the courage to tell it like it is. What a shame that a country like ours has to deal with a person like Kennedy and shame on Massachusetts for sending him back year after year! I am sure everyone outside Massachusetts agrees with you entirely.

Letter 12: Amen brother; I couldn't have said it better. That slimeball should have drowned with Kopechne. The world would be better off without him. He made an absolute fool of himself AND the democratic party during the Alito hearings. The others you mentioned, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean (ugh), Durbin, Barabra Boxer, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Joe Biden are just as bad as Kennedy. All I can say is, go on with this type of liberal thinking and you will NEVER gain power again. I have never in my 75 years seen such bitter people, who were defeated in the last two elections, who just keep sinking deeper into the cesspool of liberal beliefs and embarrass their own Democratic members. I hope your message reaches people throughout the United States and I will help you by forwarding your message to many of my e-mail friends. Long live the Republic! Down with liberals!

Letter 13: I received this piece as an email and didn't think anyone would ever have the guts to put such a thing on paper. I researched this and was so glad to know that you actually wrote this. Kudos to you. Maybe you should send each voter in Massachusetts a copy of this. They just don't realize how stupid they look to the rest of the world when they keep voting this Bozo in. Keep up the good work.

Letter 14: Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this piece. You reminded me of the reasons I don't care for this man and why I'm proud to say I'm Republican! Keep up the good work!

Letter 15: Too bad you're so timid and shy in writing your column. Just wish you would tell it like it is... LOL. Wish I had written this! Thank you so much. Bravo.

Letter 16: I cannot agree more with columnist Tony Phyrillas about Ted Kennedy being a buffoon. Actually, that description is a bit modest! Here is a guy who has been taking tax dollars for doing absolutely nothing since 1962 and the nitwits in Massachusetts keep voting him into office. Here is a guy who should have served time in prison for the selfish murdering of Mary Jo Kopechne when he left her in the sinking car to die, and then returned to a party to get refilled! Here is a guy who can't stay off the bottle and should properly be nicknamed 'Corky' since his mouth is usually on the end of a bottle like a cork! Here is a guy who lambasted Samuel Alito for belonging to an exclusive 'men only' club, a club where he also was a member until this week. This fathead rode the Kennedy name for a long time and I also think it's high time he faded away. He uses up a lot of good New England oxygen! I only hope that he someday turns his life to God and stops sticking it to all of us Americans. What a jerk!

Letter 17: Thanks for making my day! Think you should get a Pulitzer for telling the truth. Now would you like to come down to Louisiana and write the truth about New Orleans and Katrina? I am a native of LA and am ashamed that the people of this state have been treated to such garbage. I live where Rita hit. Ever hear of that name? Cameron Parish is gone, but who cares? Let's take care of those blacks who didn't lose anything because they never owned anything that wasn't paid for by the tax payers of the state and country. Every law in the state of Louisiana states "with the exception of Orleans Parish". The country is being sold a bill of goods! I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I am not against blacks, just know that bunch in New Orleans. Our highways in the Western part of the state can't get built to get the people out of South LA. Why? So that we can keep paying to do what New Orleans wants. Appreciate honest reporting, thanks for being one with GUTS!!!

Letter 18: Inspiring, well said, well done! Journalists like you -- speak for us all!

Letter 19: We have just read your column on Ted Kennedy and have to, immediately, say to you: BRAVO! ! BRAVO! ! We totally agree!

List of Legislative Dropouts grows

There will be at least 25 new Legislators in Pennsylvania after this year's elections. As of today, 21 incumbent House members (20 retiring and 1 elected to a new post) and 4 Senators (3 retiring and 1 died in office) will not be back in Harrisburg. Also, today, PaCleanSweep has announced 81 challengers for incumbents with more to come. The people's revolution in on.

Legislators who are calling it quits in 2006:

· Rep. Jerry Birmelin, R-Monroe, chairman, House Children and Youth Committee.

· Rep. Kevin Blaum, D-Luzerne, minority caucus secretary.

· Rep. Raymond Bunt Jr., R-Montgomery, majority caucus secretary.

· Alan L. Butkovitz, D-Philadelphia, represented Northeast Philadelphia since 1991.
* Resigned seat after elected Philadelphia City Controller.

· Rep. Gaynor Cawley, D-Lackawanna, chairman Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.

· Rep. Thomas C. Corrigan Sr., D-Bucks, House member since 1987.

· Rep. Jacqueline Crahalla, R-Montgomery, leaving after two terms.

· Rep. Brett O. Feese, R-Lycoming, chairman, Appropriations Committee.

· Rep. John W. Fichter, R-Montgomery, represented the Norristown area since 1993

· Rep. Robert J. Flick, R-Chester, chairman, Consumer Affairs Committee.

· Rep. Michael C. Gruitza, D-Mercer, minority chairman, House Children and Youth Committee.

· Rep. George C. Hasay, R-Luzerne, chairman, Commerce Committee.

· Rep. Lynn B. Herman, R-Centre, chairman, Local Government Committee, has represented the State College area in the House since 1983.

· Rep. Victor J. Lescovitz, D-Washington, minority chairman, Local Government Committee.

· Rep. Sheila Miller, R-Berks, chairwoman, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

· Rep. Lawrence Roberts, D-Fayette, served in the House since 1993.

· Rep. T.J. Rooney, D-Northampton, chairman of state Democratic Party.

· Rep. James E. Shaner, D-Fayette/Westmoreland Counties, member of House since 1995.

· Rep. Bruce Smith, R-York, chairman, Game and Fisheries Committee.

· Rep. Thomas M. Tigue, D-Luzerne, chairman, House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

· Rep. Elinor Z. Taylor, R-Chester, majority caucus chairwoman.

· Sen. Joe Conti, R-Bucks, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

· Sen. Charles Lemmond, R-Luzerne, chairman, State Government Committee.

· Robert J. Thompson, R-Chester, chairman, Appropriations Committee. * Died 1/29/05

· Sen. Noah W. Wenger, R-Lancaster, vice chairman, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pennsylvania Legislators working hard or hardly working?

The kids have been back in school for weeks, the family Christmas tree is mulch by now, but the holiday season is not officially over until the Pennsylvania Legislature returns to work after its annual four-week holiday break.

How do I know that the most expensive Legislature in America is back to work?
I signed up for an e-mail service that sends me a daily update on what the Pennsylvania Legislature is up to in Harrisburg. On most days, this is the message I get:

No House Actions today.
No Senate Actions today.
No Bills or Resolutions were introduced in the House today.
No Bills or Resolutions were introduced in the Senate today.

But on Monday, Jan. 23, the 253 members of the largest full-time state legislature in the U.S. returned to the gilded palace they call home for an average of 77 days each year. Time to put away those Christmas toys our Legislators have been playing with since Dec. 25 and get back to solving all the state’s problems.

I know some people believe in the adage that you get what you pay for, but that’s not always the case. Pennsylvania taxpayers shell out about $150,000 a year to cover the salary and benefits of each state lawmakers, but a lot of lawmakers haven’t gotten the hang of this concept called lawmaking.

A survey by the National Conference of Legislatures, a trade organization that compiles all kinds of information about the state legislatures are, found that just 19 percent of the bills introduced by Pennsylvania lawmakers are ever signed into law. You have to wonder what happened to the other 81 percent of the bills our lawmakers spent so much time crafting. If only two of every 10 bills become law, where they bad bills to begin with or is there a fundamental flaw in how the Legislature works?

That’s just one of the many considerations voters will have to make by the May 16 primary election when all 153 members of the House and 25 members of the Senate face re-election. Not all of the lawmakers are facing opponents, although 18 incumbents have already dropped out by announcing their retirements.

An area newspaper recently bannered the question, "Are they earning their pay?" across its front page. The article reviewed how many laws the Berks County delegation to Harrisburg put on the books since 1999. It was not a pretty picture although the newspaper did run photos of a bunch of smiling politicians next to the tally of how many Berks-area bills were signed into law. Seven of the 11 lawmakers representing districts in Berks County have very little to show for the past five years in Harrisburg or for their $72,187 annual salary.

Two legislators — Republican Rep. Sam Rohrer and Democratic Rep. Dante Santoni Jr. — had big fat goose eggs next to their names, as in they’ve never introduced a bill in the collective 26 years they’ve been in Harrisburg. And it doesn’t get much better for other Berks County lawmakers: Democratic Rep. Tom Caltagirone, who has represented Reading for the past 29 years, and Republican Rep. Dennis Leh, a 19-year veteran of the Harrisburg scene, each had one bill signed into law.

Even the grand poobah of Berks County politics, state Sen. Michael A. O’Pake, who has spent the past 38 years collecting a paycheck from Berks taxpayers, managed to get just four bills signed into law.

I’m sure a county-by-county review would find similar results for most of the state’s politicians.

The next few weeks will determine how serious Pennsylvania voters are about making profound changes in the "business-as-usual" atmosphere in Harrisburg, where tax money goes to die.
Candidates will circulate nominating petitions to place their names on the May 16 ballot.

It’s still not too late to run against the incumbent Legislator in your district. The filing deadline is March 7. All the information you need about running is available through your county elections office.

PaCleanSweep, the non-partisan citizens' group that wants to get rid of all incumbents, offers good advice for first-time candidates on its Web site,

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Monday, January 23, 2006

‘Nice guy’ legislators need to be kicked out

If your boss gives you an assignment and you don’t get the work done for days … weeks … months … even years, how long do you think it would take before the boss fires you? What’s so different about the men and women we hire to serve in the state legislature?

How much longer are voters going to tolerate the abysmal record of failure from these elected officials? The voters have given these politicians a job to do: eliminate property taxes. It’s been 16 weeks since Gov. Ed Rendell called a special session of the legislature to deal with the property tax issue and nothing approaching substantial property tax relief has emerged from Harrisburg.

Some of the people employed in the state House and Senate have been on the job for 20, 25, 30 years and have been asked repeatedly to complete one task. When he was a candidate in 2002, Gov. Rendell promised to deliver property tax relief if we elected him. It’s 2006 and we’re still waiting.

Nobody said restructuring the state’s tax system is an easy job. But that’s why legislators make the big bucks. If they want to collect more than $150,000 a year in salary and benefits, they need to earn their pay. So far, not one person in the 253-member legislature (or the governor, for that matter) has earned their pay.

Anyone who’s ever been a boss knows the hardest part of the job is firing someone. Especially someone who is likable but just can’t do the job. But it has to be done. Pennsylvania voters must send a clear message to Harrisburg that we’re the boss. We pay the bills and we expect results. If you can’t do the job — and the current crop of state legislators has demonstrated repeatedly it cannot do the job — it’s time to replace them and give someone else a shot.

In the past two weeks, I’ve been a guest on two radio talk shows — WEEU in Reading and WPAZ in Pottstown. One of the topics discussed on both shows is the fact that voters tend to like their local legislator even though they think the legislature in general is doing a lousy job. I’m here to tell you that your local legislator, the "nice guy" that you like so much, the guy or gal who has helped you with paperwork in dealing with the state bureaucracy, is part of the problem. There’s entirely too many "nice guy" politicians in Pennsylvania who can’t do the job we hired them for.

If you think that the main job of a lawmaker who is collecting $150,000 a year from the state treasury is to help you renew your driver’s license, you would be doing the rest of us a big favor by sitting out the next election. Here’s a clue for you. The state senator or representative didn’t actually do the work for you. He or she has a secretary who made the call to Harrisburg to get your problem solved. You could have made the call yourself. And the next person who is elected to represent your district in the House or Senate will help you out, too.

You cannot forget that the majority of incumbent legislators betrayed the public trust by voting themselves a pay raise in the middle of the night. You must not forget that you hired these people to provide tax relief for homeowners and they have failed you miserably.

That’s why the majority of legislators in Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties must be voted out of office in the May 16 primary or Nov. 7 general election.

This is not a partisan issue. I’m tired of the hypocritical county and state party bosses defending a bunch of second-rate politicians who won’t do anything except line their own pockets. Forget for a moment that you are a registered Democrat or Republican. At 2 a.m. on July 7, 2005, 119 members of the House and 27 members of the Senate — both Democrats and Republicans — agreed to increase their salaries. No public debate. No justification. And they took the vote after most Pennsylvanians were asleep. Then they adjourned for a 2½-month vacation. Rendell signed the pay raise into law and defended it.

Why can’t we get this kind of bipartisan cooperation for property tax relief? The answer is the politicians don’t want to cut your taxes. Politicians are good at one thing: spending other people’s money. They can’t justify their existence unless they’re spending your money.

While most Pennsylvania workers are struggling, the legislators are living the lifestyles of the rich and famous. They voted four times in the past 20 years to increase their pay on top of annual cost-of-living raises. They doubled their pension. They’ve given themselves all sorts of benefits (free cars, free health insurance, $140 a day meal allowance) not available in the private sector. They don’t want to give any of that up by cutting your taxes.

In the best of all possible worlds, all 146 pay-jackers would be voted out in 2006. But that’s not going to happen. Some of them are "nice guys" who will fool enough voters into sending them back to Harrisburg. Others won’t face opposition in the primary or general election.

If we, the voters, don’t exercise our prerogative to fire these lousy workers, we have nobody but ourselves to blame when the politicians continue to pick our pockets.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rendell lead slips away

What have I been telling you for months about Ed Rendell? The emperor has no clothes. (Yes, the image of Fast Eddie naked is revolting.) More and more Pennsylvania residents are figuring out that Rendell is a con artist. He's fooled people for 3 years, but the jig is up. See latest poll results below:

Zogby- Wall Street Journal Poll Shows Rendell and Swann in Dead Heat
A new poll conducted by Zogby International for the Wall Street Journal shows Governor Ed Rendell leading Lynn Swann 43.9% to 43.6%. The same poll shows Ed Rendell leading bill Scranton 45.7% to 37.9%. the poll's margin of error was +/- 2.7%. Details

Ed, go back home. They still love you in Philly...

There's also an interesting editorial in the Northeast Times (the other Philadelphia newspaper nobody ever heard of) about how poor a job Rendell has done as governor. The editorial suggests Rendell give up his bid for a second term as governor of Pennsylvania and run again for mayor of Philadelphia. The full editorial can be read online at

Here's what others are saying about Rendell...

The following are comments were left by readers on various Web sites that posted my recent column, "Rendell's Legacy: 3 Years of Failure" --

Comment 1: I totally agree with the Tony Phyrillas in his assessment of Rendell's first three years. It seems to have been plagued by one debacle after another. And the problems that Pennsylvania faced before Ed Rendell are still not solved. It seems to me that Rendell is setting himself up as a strong Democratic Party VP candidate. Hillary and Rendell in 2008. I hope Pennsylvania's end their "Fast Eddie" misery by voting for Lynn Swann in November.

Comment 2: Ed Rendell is the archetypal flim-flam man. He talks a good game, but when one peels back the layers of slime, at the core is a socialist ideologue looking to line his own pockets and those of his cronies with other people's money.

Comment 3: You know what would be really cool? If Pennsylvanians stayed mad at him until 2008. The Republican presidential candidate could then ride Rendell's anti-coattails to an electoral victory in Pennsylvania. Let's see any Dem presidential candidate get elected in '08 without Pennsylvania.

Comment 4: If Pennsylvanians re-elect thug Rendell then they get what they deserve...garbage in and no garbage out. Too's a beautiful state between the 2 P's cities. I say go Lynn Swann.

Comment 5: Swann is the only GOP contender who could siphon minority votes in Philly and Pittsburgh--and absolute MUST if there is to be a change in the Governor's mansion. Of the others in the running Scranton is a stuffed shirt.

Comment 6: Fast Eddy seems to make a habit of stepping in it - I believe I remember that he was chairman of the DNC for a few weeks during the tumultuous election of 2000, when he opined that Al Gore should not continue his fight by challenging the results through the Florida courts, soon after which he was no longer the chairman of the DNC...maybe we'll see a similar job loss after this year's election.....

Comment 7: Rendell was elected because of two very simple reasons. Mike Fisher didn't come across as the jolly, cordial type like Rendell and the big reason - Rendell promised the seniors property tax relief on his very first day of office. They're still waiting for any tax relief. He's banking on smoke filled block buildings called slots parlors to take the seniors money and turn it into their own tax relief. The media doesn't mention that Rendell is calculating slots revenue in PA to exceed that of Las Vegas. The Philadelphia democrat voting fraud block is hard to overcome in any state wide election. Let's hope Scranton or Swann give him a run for his money.

Comment 8: I just got back from my Christmas vacation trip to PA. My parents live up in Gettysburg. First the roads are truly the worst in the country. Second, the state is trying to cram casinos down the throats of its citizens. In Gettysburg, the town has said no to casinos on the battlefields. The town prides itself on it's history and are dead set against bringing that kind of business to its little community. Everyone thought the issue was put to rest after the town voted it down. Rendel and his folks just repackaged a new plan and are pushing it hard. One bright note, my dad, a life long democrat said he stopped going to the local democrat meetings because he was the only one to show up.

Comment 9: I also heard that PA is a state that very little job and economic growth. Not Michigan bad, but very low and not competitive nationwide. Does anyone know about this?

Comment 10: You're correct. Pennsylvania is definitely "rust belt". New jobs are mostly in the service area (what good is that if other people don't have jobs to be able to spend the money for services?). Many of the factories that provided decent jobs are packing up and going overseas, it's always been a pro-union state (partially leading to it's demise), plus we have an a$$hole governor who comes up with these grandiose schemes that the sheeple think will help them, but are actually schemes to line his and his friends' pockets (e.g. casino gambling).

Comment 11: Ed Rendell is the archetypal flim-flam man. He talks a good game, but when one peels back the layers of slime, at the core is a socialist ideologue looking to line his own pockets and those of his cronies with other people's money.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Dropouts

As of Jan. 18, 2006, a total of 17 members of the Pennsylvania Legislature have announced they will retire rather than face the voters in 2006. The list includes 15 members of the House and 2 members of the Senate. All have two things in common: Each voted yes to the infamous July 7, 2005 pay raise and each took the money early as unvouchered expenses before the pay raise was repealed. You be the judge if they need to "spend more time with my family" or are too chicken to face the voters back home.

The Dropouts:

· Rep. Kevin Blaum, D-Luzerne, minority caucus secretary.

· Rep. Raymond Bunt Jr., R-Montgomery, majority caucus secretary.

· Rep. Thomas C. Corrigan Sr., D-Bucks, House member since 1987.

· Rep. Jacqueline Crahalla, R-Montgomery, leaving after two terms.

· Rep. John W. Fichter, R-Montgomery, represented the Norristown area since 1993

· Rep. Robert J. Flick, R-Chester, chairman, Consumer Affairs Committee.

· Rep. George C. Hasay, R-Luzerne, chairman, Commerce Committee.

· Rep. Lynn B. Herman, R-Centre, chairman, Local Government Committee, has represented the State College area in the House since 1983.

· Rep. Victor J. Lescovitz, D-Washington, minority chairman, Local Government Committee.

· Rep. Sheila Miller, R-Berks, chairwoman, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

· Rep. Lawrence Roberts, D-Fayette, served in the House since 1993.

· Rep. T.J. Rooney, D-Northampton, chairman of state Democratic Party.

· Rep. Bruce Smith, R-York, chairman, Game and Fisheries Committee.

· Rep. Thomas M. Tigue, D-Luzerne, chairman, House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.

· Rep. Elinor Z. Taylor, R-Chester, majority caucus chairwoman.

· Sen. Charles Lemmond, R-Luzerne, chairman, State Government Committee.

· Sen. Noah W. Wenger, R-Lancaster, vice chairman, Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Is your legislator the retiring kind?

The "Dirty Dozen" has become the "Fearful Fifteen."

As of Jan. 13, a total of 15 Pennsylvania legislators have announced their intention to voluntarily retire in 2006 rather than face the voters, who no doubt would force most of the politicians into retirement.

The "Fearful Fifteen" includes 10 Republicans and five Democrats. They all have one thing in common — each one voted for the middle-of-the-night pay raise last July. The good news for residents of The Mercury’s coverage area is that six of the retiring legislators are from districts in Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties.

That makes the voters’ job of kicking out as many of the legislative pay-jackers as possible a little easier. But there’s still many area legislators who don’t deserve to return to Harrisburg based on their vote to raise their own salaries, their inability to deliver property tax relief and just plain greed and/or spinelessness.

If you need a refresher on which area lawmakers voted to raid the public treasury at 2 a.m. on July 7, keep these names in mind: Reps. Tim Hennessey, Curt Schroder, Art Hershey, Kate Harper, Daylin Leach, Eugene McGill, Robert Godshall, Lawrence Curry, Susan Cornell, Dennis Leh, Sam Rohrer, Dante Santoni, Tom Caltagirone and Paul Semmel; and Sens. Robert Thompson, David Brightbill, Stewart Greenleaf, Connie Williams, James Rhodes and Mike O’Pake.

Let’s just say that Pennsylvania taxpayers would be a lot better off if those 20 lawmakers were forced into retirement in 2006.

The most recent "retirement" announcement is that of state Rep. John W. Fichter, a 71-year-old East Norriton resident who was first elected to his 70th District state House seat in 1992. Fichter joins fellow Montgomery County state Reps. Raymond Bunt Jr. in 147th District and Jacqueline R. Crahalla in the 150th District in deciding not to face the voters. In Chester County, longtime Republican Reps. Robert J. Flick and Elinor Z. Taylor have waived the white flag.

Another Republican, Sheila Miller, has decided to give up her seat representing a rural Berks County district.

The other nine Legislators calling it quits are Rep. Kevin Blaum, D-Luzerne; Rep. Thomas C. Corrigan Sr., D-Bucks; Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny; Rep. George C. Hasay, R-Luzerne; Lynn B. Herman, R-Centre; Rep. Victor J. Lescovitz, D-Washington; Rep. T.J. Rooney, D-Northampton; Rep. Bruce Smith, R-York; and Sen. Charles Lemmond, R-Luzerne.

The fact that only one member of the state Senate has announced retirement so far is distressing. Half the Senate, which has 50 members, is up for reelection in 2006, including a handful of senators who voted for the pay raise. On the bright side, most of the current Senate leadership is facing challengers in the May 16 primary, so many of the leaders of the pay-jacking could be ousted from within their own party.

The excellent political site,, has launched a companion site called, which keeps track of all the statewide races. Visit the site if you want to know whether your state Legislator has an opponent or whether he or she is "retiring."

Another informative Web site is, which has launched a Hall of Shame listing the 158 Pennsylvania Legislators who took the pay raise as "unvouchered expenses" during the four-months before the pay raise was repealed.

If your Legislator hasn’t returned the money — and about half of them are keeping it — it’s time to launch another campaign of phone calls, personal visits, letters and e-mails to Legislators. Remind them they work for you.

While you’re at it, advise your incumbent Legislator that he or she should consider retirement in 2006.

A grassroots citizen campaign to force the pay-jackers to step aside would be good use of voters’ time as we approach a crucial period — between Feb. 14 and March 7 — when candidates can circulate nominating petitions to run in the May 16 primary.

One more thing. When you hear the retiring legislators say they’re leaving Harrisburg to spend more time with their families, you have to wonder why their families didn’t matter the past 20 years when most of them served in the Legislature.

Why would anyone leave a part-time job that pays $72,000 a year, plus the most generous benefits package of any state legislature in the country? That is, unless you figure the voters are going to boot you out anyway. So why not pretend you’re leaving on your own? I say, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Another helping of reader mail

A sampling below of some recent letters about my columns or issues I’ve written about.

From our ‘great minds think alike’ department, I couldn’t have said it better than this reader:

Heard all this liberal tripe before

The recent Opinion page column by Gene Lyons on the Bush "police state" is a perfect parody of the current talking points of the Democrat Party. It would be very funny, assuming the general public had sufficient information to be able to recognize it for the outrageous demagoguery that it is. Sadly, a lot of people may fall prey to the rhetoric.
We are a nation at war. Most Americans recognized that the minute the second jetliner hit the Twin Towers. In wartime, the president has the exclusive prerogative to gather intelligence, provided by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. After the Vietnam War, Congress tried to mitigate that authority through the Wars Powers Resolution and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) that introduced an element of oversight.
However, every single Justice Department since then, including Bill Clinton’s and Jimmy Carter’s, has stated that, this legislation notwithstanding, the presidential prerogative to act independently in acquiring wartime intelligence remains absolute. This is the (extremely abbreviated) legal history and precedent upon which the Patriot Act — passed overwhelmingly by Congress after 9/11 — is based. Despite the partisan caterwauling to the contrary, President Bush has upheld, not violated, his Constitutional oath.
For those who don’t want to slog through the Constitution or FISA or the Patriot Act, there are two big clues to why the Lyons column should not be taken seriously. One is that neither Gene Lyons nor the ACLU nor People for the American Way nor nor the Democrat leadership can document one legitimate case of abuse under the Patriot Act.
Fact No. 2 is that none of these champions of liberty — certainly not Gene Lyons — raised so much as a peep about the well-documented abuses of the former administration, including but not limited to, the illegal holding of hundreds of FBI files in the White House, and the use of both the IRS and the FBI to harass private citizens — all without the slightest pretense of defending the nation.
Clearly, Gene Lyons’ sensitivity to civil rights abuses blows both hot and cold.
That we keep a beady eye on civil liberty in the context of national defense is a very good thing, crucial, in fact, to the free society we all hold dear. But these debates should be reasoned and responsible investigations of law, history, precedent and fact, not hysterical firebombs of partisan propaganda.


Members of the Pennsylvania legislature who are tinkering with a watered-down tax relief plan better wise up. Taxpayers want the total elimination of property taxes. Period. Nothing short of that will keep them from voting out most incumbents. Here’s a few examples of what area residents are saying about the matter:

Abolish the property tax

Regarding property taxes, it seems our Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, wants to give us up to $272 toward our school taxes and he thinks it is a good deal. What a joke to a family that pays $2,000 to $5,000 a year. We need more people to complain and the way to do it is to cancel the tax payments on their houses that they put in escrow. That way, they would have to come up with the $2,000 to $5,000 at one time just like the senior citizens have to.
All the days in the last three months that the lawmakers went to Harrisburg cost the taxpayers at least $124 a day. That sure put a lot of taxpayer money in their pockets. The people need a paper like The Mercury to keep after them to abolish the property tax.


We deserve real tax reform

I am very disappointed in the latest House plan to reform property taxes. In fact, it does not reform the property tax system at all.
This plan allows the property tax system to remain in place. This will allow our property taxes to be increased in the future and we’ll inevitably be back in the same sinking boat we’re in now. And partially replacing the school property tax with increases in both the state income tax and the local earned-income tax is purely a slight of hand. This approach has fundamental problems — it increases taxes that already penalize hard work and achievement, and it will further reduce real income growth in the state.
There is a sensible way to bring true tax reform to Pennsylvanians: the Commonwealth Caucus plan for a lower, broader state sales tax. This plan is based on a consumption tax that is pro-growth and is a fair means to totally eliminate the school property tax while providing equitable funding for schools. Mindful of low-income workers and rising health care costs, the plan allows for exemptions from the sales tax.
An independent analysis confirmed the plan’s viability. In its initial five-year period, the plan would create over 139,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania. Seniors would finally be free from the ever-increasing burden of school property taxes. Family-sustaining jobs would be created. Now wouldn’t that be nice for our senior citizens and families?
Pennsylvanians deserve real property tax reform. Call, fax, e-mail and write your state senator and representative now and tell them you want true independence from property taxes by totally eliminating them. Tell them not to allow an increase in the state income tax or the local earned-income tax. Tell them to support the pro-growth Commonwealth Caucus Plan and get Pennsylvania back on the right track.

North Coventry

Politicians always forget the voters

Once again those whom we have elected have forgotten who they represent. In Washington, they seem more interested in the welfare of those in Iraq and those south of the border. Free trade means we freely give them our factories and they give us their needy. They tell us that the illegals who cross the border only work the jobs that Americans will not do. Why then were two busloads of illegals taken from a construction site for Wal-Mart?
In Harrisburg, they know how to pass slot machine laws (and later allow themselves to invest in the slots). They know how to repeal a safety helmet law and how to pass an illegal pay raise. Why, then, is it so hard to pass fair tax relief for homeowners?
I do think it is time to dump the incumbents.
Here’s an idea: the next time one of the parties calls for a campaign donation, pledge $1,000, but then tell them that you will apply that to your own campaign to pay for your school taxes.
Another elected official who has forgotten the taxpayer is your local school board who feels it necessary to outbuild the neighboring school district by building schools that would be the envy of any college campus.

New Berlinville

And then you have Kool Aid drinkers like this poor soul, who wouldn’t remember to breath unless Howard Dean told him to…..

U.S. has never been a Christian nation

Tony Phyrillas, in his column on Dec. 25, calls Christians to fight for their right to public school Christmas pageants and to purchase consumer goods only from those merchants who aren’t sensitive to the real and rich pluralism that is our nation.
I am grateful to live in a country where I and all others may worship, or not, as we see fit. I thank God also that, by and large, our institutions continue to grow in their exercise of restraint when it comes to those who fear their faith is meaningful only if everyone else bows before their god.
Mr. Phyrillas says we are a Christian nation overlooking about 300 years of history (and a Constitution) that says otherwise. It was freedom to worship not as the crown demands that brought many of our forebearers here. We have never been, nor hopefully will we ever be, a Christian nation, or an Islamist, Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu nation.
Speaking not as a secular leftist, but rather as a deeply committed Christian, Lord help us if we ever become a "Christian" nation. There never has been a Christian nation on the face of this planet, nor can there ever be one. Nations belong to the realm of principalities and powers, not the Kingdom of God.
People usually fight and demand their "rights" when they are afraid. Mr. Phyrillas, with his call to arms, mocks the Gospel that says "Fear Not."
Try it Mr. Phyrillas. Fear not. You might become a Christian.


Last time I checked, 85 percent of the United States was Christian, making this the most populous Christian nation on Earth. I guess Mr. Wade is living on a different planet.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Rendell Fan Club is shrinking

The pundits say Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell should win reelection easily in 2006 despite job approval numbers that are lower than George Bush’s poll numbers.

In western and central Pennsylvania, Rendell has an approval rating of 30 percent — about 10 to 15 percent lower than the president’s numbers. Inexplicably, Rendell’s approval rating in Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs is 70 percent. Don’t the people of southeastern Pennsylvania pay property taxes? One of the great mysteries of life is why the Philadelphia region doesn’t see what the rest of the state does when it comes to Rendell’s shortcomings.

I have my own "unofficial" poll of how Rendell is doing. Judging from the response of readers to my recent column, "Rendell’s Legacy: 3 years of failure," the governor is going to have to work a lot harder to win reelection this November.

Based on his lack of achievements in his first term (no property tax relief, no increase in the minimum wage, no controls over skyrocketing health insurance premiums, onerous business taxes), I wouldn’t start celebrating a Rendell victory just yet.

Can you say Gov. Bill Scranton? How about Gov. Lynn Swann? Either GOP challenger would make a better governor than Rendell. And Pennsylvania voters are beginning to reach the same conclusion as the shine wears off Rendell’s luster.

Here’s a sampling of how readers view Rendell’s first term in office:

Letter 1: Absolutely loved your article about the many failures of Ed Rendell. However, I do think it was missing one more major point. You forgot to mention the fact that Rendell hasn’t given an early dismissal the last working day before any major holiday this year. Not to be outdone by the fact that he also didn’t dismiss early during that big afternoon snowstorm a few weeks back. Guess he also doesn’t care if anyone gets home safely. Can’t forget about the aesthetics that us little people find important.

Letter 2: I just read your scathing commentary (online) on the governorship of Rendell and could not agree with you more. My only additional comment would be that Mr. Rendell’s mentor was obviously the equally horrendous recently unelected mayor of Pittsburgh, Tom Murphy. Downtown Pittsburgh at one time was a great place to work and shop with clean streets and a wide variety of department stores and small, well kept, successful independent businesses. The liberal mentality in this state is appalling and I’m amazed that voters continue to elect, time after time, decade after decade, the very "leaders" who destroy our communities and our state. One day voters may wake up, but by then it may be too late. Keep up the good work!

Letter 3: Gutsy piece on the governor. Would you be interested in having the facts on how he’s also lying to the public about the medical liability crisis, and how, despite what the Philadelphia Inquirer would like people to believe, it’s not "over" and it’s getting worse? There’s some really good data available and it’s also important to note that Dr. Sage, who has been widely quoted as the guy who says the crisis is over, didn’t actually say that at all ... at least, not in as wide-reaching terminology as has been attributed to him .... I’d be delighted to forward to you some pieces I and other physician advocates have written on this issue, containing hard facts that completely debunk Rendell’s claims of having fixed the problem

Letter 4: Your column on Rendell’s legacy was right on target. He obviously is the consummate politician. One hopes this will be his one and only term as governor.

Letter 5: Thank you very much for your article: "Rendell’s legacy!" Now if we can just get this out to the 12 million Pennsylvanians who either don’t care or don’t know what this man has done? If I can help in any way, please let me know Tony! I’m thinking about making 12 million copies of this article to send to every household in Pennsylvania! What do you think? Thanks for your time!

Letter 6: You are dead on about Rendell. I’ve only been following state politics seriously for the past year and what I’ve seen has thoroughly disgusted me. I am one of those young people getting out of the state as fast as I can because it has become intolerable living here. My anger lies mostly with how our fine political establishment has screwed up royally the rejuvenation of our inner city economies. I’m from York, Pa., where this urban redevelopment thing has failed miserably. There is no way in hell that the people involved should be allowed to get away with what they’ve perpetrated upon us, the poor, unsuspecting taxpayer. Are you familiar with 10,000 Friends of PA? That’s who really has the governor’s ear. This is the construction lobby made up of the richest and most powerfully connected people in the state and through their efforts, they’ve been able to pull the wool over the public’s eyes and laugh all the way to the bank. Their economic development theories are full of holes, completely based on greed, and lead to all kinds of corruption.

Letter 7: Great article on Rendell. Lynn Swann should stir up some interest especially in Pittsburgh. Did you hear about Rendell signing legislation that protects stables (riding) from certain liability since we were only one of six states that didn’t have the "manure" protection. We are the only state that doesn’t have lobbyist disclosure, but maybe after the big stink in Washington, something may happen. Don’t hold your breath. Don’t you feel good to know that slots may come to Limerick — we could have lunch there and play the slots.

Letter 8: Great article. I thought I was the only one who was disappointed in Rendell. I always look forward to reading your column. You say it so well. Thanks for another winner!

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Monday, January 09, 2006

Legislative dropout rate on the rise

Can’t call them the Dirty Dozen anymore. How about the Fearful Fifteen? As of January 9, my count has 15 state legislators calling it quits — 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats. See list below.

Also below is a list of legislators who have given back the money they took as "unvouchered expenses" during their short-lived pay raise in the summer of 2005.

Fichter not seeking re-election

Margaret Gibbons of the Norristown Times Herald reports that a third incumbent Republican state lawmaker from Montgomery County is stepping down at the end of the year.
State Rep. John W. Fichter, a 71-year-old East Norriton resident who was first elected to his 70th District state House seat in 1992, has announced he will not seek re-election this year.
Fichter joins fellow county GOP state Reps. Ray Bunt in 147th District and Jacqueline R. Crahalla in the 150th District in opting out of this year's elections.
Like the two others, Fichter said that the controversial pay hike for which he and others voted and then repealed after sparking the anger of the public did not play any role in his decision.
"That did not even enter into my mind in making this decision," said Fichter, who was born in West Conshohocken, attended the then-Norristown High School and is a graduate of Ursinus College.
Fichter's district includes parts of East Norriton, Norristown, Skippack and Towamencin and Lower Salford and Worcester.
Among those who have indicated an interest in running for the seat include: Netta Young Hughes, a Norristown resident who unsuccessfully in the past attempted to topple Fichter; former county treasurer Jay R. Moyer of Lower Salford; former county prosecutor Sean Cullen of Skippack; and Towamencin Republican Stan Kemp.

The 15 Legislators who are calling it quits:

— Rep. Kevin Blaum, D-Luzerne, minority caucus secretary.
— Rep. Raymond Bunt Jr., R-Montgomery, majority caucus secretary.
— Rep. Thomas C. Corrigan Sr., D-Bucks, House member since 1987.
— Rep. Jacqueline Crahalla, R-Montgomery, leaving after two terms.
— Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, lawyer who has served in the House since 1991.
— Rep. John W. Fichter, R-Montgomery, has represented the Norristown area since 1993
— Rep. Robert J. Flick, R-Chester, chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee.
— Rep. George C. Hasay, R-Luzerne, chairman of the Commerce Committee.
— Lynn B. Herman, R-Centre, chairman of the Local Government Committee, has represented the State College area in the House since 1983.
— Rep. Victor J. Lescovitz, D-Washington, minority chairman of the Local Government Committee.
— Rep. Sheila Miller, R-Berks, chairwoman of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
— Rep. T.J. Rooney, D-Northampton, chairman of state Democratic Party.
— Rep. Bruce Smith, R-York, chairman of the Game and Fisheries Committee.
— Rep. Elinor Z. Taylor, R-Chester, majority caucus chairwoman.
— Sen. Charles Lemmond, R-Luzerne, chairman of the State Government Committee.

Pa. House reveals who gave back pay raise

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a front-page story and list over the weekend of 61 lawmakers who have repaid the state or garnished their wages.
According to reporter Mario F. Cattabiani, records show that 61 state representatives have either written reimbursement checks for the amount they collected or are having their wages garnished — about double the number disclosed just last month.
Here's more from the Inquirer:
In all, 75 House and Senate members — about half of those who took the unpopular summer pay raise right away — have decided to repay the state. A third of them are from the Philadelphia region.
Rep. Susan Cornell (R, Montgomery), who is one of that group, said she originally took the raise through a legislative expense account to hire a part-time aide in her district office. Her constituents didn't like the idea and let her know it.
"They were loud and clear. They didn't care if the money wasn't going in my pocket or not," she said. "It didn't matter to them. They just didn't want me to take it at all. They just wanted me to give it back."
Soon after the repeal, Cornell sent the state a check for $929.69 —the portion of the raise she had received. Also weighing in her decision is her bid for a second term this year.
"I would be lying if I said it didn't have something to do with it," she said.
The Senate, which had provided a more detailed accounting, updated its list yesterday. It showed that State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo had changed his mind and decided to return the roughly $12,000 he had collected.
Fumo, the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee and one of the legislature's wealthiest members, becomes the only senator from Philadelphia who took the cash to give it back.
Anti-pay-raise activists yesterday saw hopeful signs in the increasing numbers of lawmakers returning the salary.
"I'd like to have seen them all give the money back by now, but it's showing progress," said Russ Diamond, founder of, a Web site devoted to unseating all incumbent legislators over the pay-raise issue.
Diamond said the numbers were on the rise because of continued pressure by constituents still irate over the raises and efforts by groups such as his to keep the issue alive in the minds of voters. Last month, his site posted a "Hall of Shame," listing the names of all 158 House and Senate members who took any money from raises.
There's still more work to be done, said Gene Stilp, a Harrisburg activist who has challenged the raises in court.
"The members are realizing that they have to pay the money back to get any credibility with their constituents," Stilp said. "But it still leaves 83 people with no credibility, none whatsoever."
Members now make $72,187 annually.
Only Cornell and Reps. Raymond Bunt and Tim Hennessey were available for comment.
In December, Hennessey (R, Chester) began reimbursing the state through a payroll deduction.
"When I made my mind up to vote to repeal it, it seemed the only appropriate thing to do was to return it," he said.
Bunt (R, Montgomery) said he decided to reimburse the state $3,654 days after the vote to repeal the raises. Last week, Bunt announced that he would not seek another term.

Here's the list from the Inquirer:

Philadelphia-area legislators who took at least a portion of the raise and have decided to repay the state:


William Adolph (R., Delaware), Stephen Barrar (R., Chester), Raymond Bunt (R., Montgomery), Mario Civera (R., Delaware), Susan Cornell (R., Montgomery), Lawrence Curry (D., Montgomery), John Fichter (R., Montgomery), Thomas Gannon (R., Delaware), Robert Godshall (R., Montgomery), Tim Hennessey (R., Chester), Arthur Hershey (R., Chester), Tom Killion (R., Delaware), Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery), Dennis Leh (R., Montgomery), Eugene McGill (R., Montgomery), Nicholas Micozzie (R., Delaware), Ron Raymond (R., Delaware), James Roebuck (D., Phila.), Curt Schroder (R., Chester), and Matthew Wright (R., Bucks).


Joseph Conti (R., Bucks), Vincent Fumo (D., Phila.), Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), and Noah Wenger (R., Chester).

Friday, January 06, 2006

Ed Rendell: The worst governor in the United States

Ed Rendell, the former Philadelphia mayor, Democratic National Committee chairman and supporter of Hillary Clinton, has completed three full years as Pennsylvania governor.

During his tenure, state spending has grown to an astronomical $24.3 billion a year. And what are Pennsylvania taxpayers getting for their money? The state's economy is on life support (the Washington, D.C.-based Cato Institute gave Rendell and "F" for his economic policies).

Pennsylvania taxpayers, especially the elderly, are losing their homes because they can't afford burdensome property taxes. Rendell has made property tax relief his primary goal in each of his first three years as governor but failed to deliver on his promise three years in a row.

Pennsylvania roads are crumbling or choked with traffic. Thousands of young people are leaving the state for better opportunities elsewhere, while tons of garbage from surrounding states flows into Pennsylvania. Corruption, greed and incompetence seem to be the three words most frequently associated with Pennsylvania government.

Rendell promised a "new Pennsylvania" when he took office in 2003. Many voters fell for Rendell's empty promises.

Pennsylvania continues the dubious distinction of being the No. 1 importer of out-of-state garbage in the United States. Rendell has turned Pennsylvania into the nation's dumping ground.

Pennsylvania has the worst roads in the nation, according to annual surveys of truckers. The state's bridges are falling down. Rendell's own transportation department says the state needs to spend $500 million in each of the next 20 years to repair deteriorating bridges. And let's not forget that Rendell siphoned $530 million in federal highway funds to keep buses and trains running in Philadelphia (and keep those Democratic-voting transit workers happy).

Rendell campaigned on a platform to overhaul education in Pennsylvania. He's had three education secretaries in three years. It's hard to develop a plan to improve schools when your Education Department is a revolving door.

Rendell signed a $1 billion increase in the state income tax in his first year. He pushed through casino gambling in his second year even though two-thirds of the state's residents oppose gambling. Rendell sold the slots bill as a way to fund public education. The companion legislation to fund the schools, Act 72, was rejected by four-fifths of the state’s 501 school districts. Even if the school districts had approved Act 72, it's obvious that gambling revenues would not bring in enough to fund the state's public schools.

So why will Pennsylvania soon be home to 61,000 slot machines? One might ask Rendell to explain why he has collected millions in campaign contributions from the gambling industry. What is the gambling industry getting for its money? Who has the governor's ear? Pennsylvania taxpayers or casino owners?

Rendell didn't do too much damage in his third year as governor. The only tax increase he could get approved was the $52 emergency services tax that almost all communities now take from the paychecks of workers.

But let's not forget Rendell's biggest achievement of 2005. He signed into law the infamous 16 percent to 54 percent pay raises for legislators, judges and other state politicians, including the governor. Rendell had an opportunity to side with the state's beleaguered taxpayers and veto the pay hike. He signed it anyway and praised the pay raise. It wasn't until Pennsylvanians started booing Rendell at county fairs that he realized he had stepped in manure.

Rendell did find time in December to veto legislation that would have saved Pennsylvania businesses and workers $1.1 billion over the next five years. Why did Rendell oppose the tax cuts? He said the legislation would reduce the amount of money the state had to spend. Duh. That's the idea of a tax cut. Less money for government to waste.

Rendell has also failed to curb "for-profit" insurance giants from raising rates by 20 percent to 30 percent every year. Two bills before the state Legislature are stuck in committee because the insurance lobby doesn't want them passed. Rendell and his insurance secretary, who is supposed to be looking out for Pennsylvania taxpayers, have been silent on this issue for three years.

Rendell promised to increase Pennsylvania's minimum wage, which has been at $5.15 since 1996. Three years into his term, he has failed to deliver on that promise. He even announced that he would never sign the pay raise unless it included an increase in the minimum wage. He signed the pay raise anyway.

Rendell has pardoned more criminals in his first three years as governor than any other Pennsylvania governor has done over the same time frame.

If you're a Pennsylvania resident who still feels the need to re-elect Rendell, look at it this way: A vote for Rendell is a vote for higher taxes, under-funded schools, skyrocketing health insurance, more out-of-state garbage, crumbling roads and bridges, state-supported gambling and more pardons for criminals.

And here's a final reason Rendell (who moonlights for cable TV's Comcast as a commentator for Eagles football games) doesn't deserve re-election. He promised the Eagles would return to the Super Bowl in 2006 and win it all. So much for Rendell keeping his promises.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pay-raise payback: Pa. Legislators dropping like flies

Every time I read that another member of the Pennsylvania Legislature has decided to "retire" rather than face re-election in 2006, one song comes to mind:

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust

Normally when you get a song going through your head, it’s annoying. But I don’t mind having the pulsing beat of Queen’s No. 1 chart-topper from 1980 humming through my head because I know every time I hear Freddie Mercury sing "Another One Bites The Dust," another of Pennsylvania's Larcenous Legislators is history.

So far, 11 state Legislators have come to the realization that they're too ashamed or too scared to face the voters in May or November.

As I predicted last fall, you will see a long line of legislators opting to retire or pursue other interests rather than attempt to defend the indefensible 2 a.m. raid on the public treasury on the morning of July 7, 2005. The Nov. 18, 2005, vote to repeal the pay hike doesn’t mean a thing. The crime was committed in July and no amount of remorse or willingness to make restitution to the taxpayers is enough.

We’ve all heard of "Road Rage." What we're witnessing now in Pennsylvania is "Voter Rage."

Pennsylvania residents have had enough. They’re mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore! They will vote out incumbents in record numbers in 2006, starting with Gov. Ed Rendell and making their way through House and Senate leadership down to the drones who made the pay hike possible. And every day that the Legislature fails to deliver on property tax relief is one more incumbent about to lose his or her job.

If there’s one thing that drives politicians more than money, it’s ego. That’s the main reason these veteran Legislators, some of whom have been feeding at the public trough in Harrisburg for decades, are giving up their lifestyles of the rich and famous. They simply cannot bear the thought of being rejected by voters in their home districts. Their egos just can’t stand it.

That’s why 11 Legislators have decided to give up $72,000-a-year jobs that require you to show up for work an average of 77 days a year. That’s why they’re willing to give up the luxury automobiles and $130-a-day in meal money (not to mention those invitations for free breakfasts, lunches and dinners at the local Kiwanis or Lions or Rotary club meetings).

Here’s a list released Jan. 4 by the Associated Press of the Legislators (10 in the House and 1 Senator) who are calling it quits:

— Rep. Kevin Blaum, D-Luzerne, minority caucus secretary.
— Rep. Raymond Bunt Jr., R-Montgomery, majority caucus secretary.
— Rep. Thomas C. Corrigan Sr., D-Bucks, House member since 1987.
— Rep. Jacqueline R. Crahalla, R-Montgomery, leaving after two terms.
— Rep. Robert J. Flick, R-Chester, chairman of the Consumer Affairs Committee.
— Rep. Victor J. Lescovitz, D-Washington, minority chairman of the Local Government Committee.
— Rep. Sheila Miller, R-Berks, chairwoman of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
— Rep. T.J. Rooney, D-Northampton, chairman of state Democratic Party.
— Rep. Bruce Smith, R-York, chairman of the Game and Fisheries Committee.
— Rep. Elinor Z. Taylor, R-Chester, majority caucus chairwoman.
— Sen. Charles D. Lemmond, R-Luzerne, chairman of the State Government Committee.

The list will grow in coming weeks. I predict at least 50 new House members and at least 15 new state Senators will be elected in 2006, regardless of how many incumbents are on the ballot. Gov. Ed Rendell will also pay for his role in the Great Pay Heist of 2005.

You'll also see the end of the line for some big names in state politics, including Sens. Robert Jubelirer, David Brightbill and Robert Mellow and Reps. Samuel Smith, William DeWeese and Mike Veon. Next to Ed Rendell, nobody has done more harm to Pennsylvania than Speaker of the House John Perzel, but sending Perzel back to his waiter job at a Philly restaurant might be too much to ask for in 2006. We may have to settle for Perzel's demotion to the rank-and-file once the new legislators are sworn in. And let’s not forget that two more state Supreme Court Justices will face retention votes this year. I can’t even think of their names right now, but it doesn’t matter. Voters will vote "no" to all incumbents, including judges.

The re-election rate for members of the Pennsylvania Legislature was 90 percent before the pay-jacking. Sadly, 8 out of 10 incumbents never faced opposition in their bids for re-election. All that is about to change as voters get their revenge for decades of abuse from self-serving politicians. PaCleanSweep, the non-partisan group helping candidates challenge the incumbents Legislators reports it has recruited 99 candidates across the Commonwealth who have declared their intention to seek office in 2006, including 65 candidates planning to run against incumbents in the May 16 primary election. For a variety of useful information on how you can become a candidate, visit the group’s Web site at

An average of 16 of the 203 House members opt not to seek re-election every two years, usually because they’re too old or they’ve picked enough money out of taxpayers’ pockets. But don’t weep for these hard-working public servants. They’ll still get taxpayer-funded pensions and taxpayer-funded health insurance coverage as well as life insurance and long-term disability care. And many of them will return to Harrisburg as lobbyists for big corporations that want to do business in Pennsylvania.

The best way to keep track of who is "retiring" is at one of two excellent political Web sites,, which is updated frequently throughout the day, or, which appears to be updated once a day.

And don’t hesitate to encourage your local legislator to consider retirement. It will save us the trouble of riding the bums out on a rail.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Overall, a pretty good year for President Bush

Despite the drumbeat of negative coverage of his administration by the mainstream (aka liberal) media, 2005 wasn't such a bad year for George W. Bush.

The nation took some heavy blows in 2005, but withstood the punches remarkably well. Chalk it up to the resiliency of the American people and the optimism of George Bush. Never underestimate the role of the president as a national cheerleader or grief counselor. The right president can help the nation get through the toughest of times. Remember all the Democrats keeping their fingers crossed for a recession following Hurricane Katrinna? Imagine where we’d be if John "Doom and Gloom" Kerry had been sitting in the White House. We’d still be filling sandbags in New Orleans.

While the Chicken Little Democrats run around screaming "The sky is falling!" the nation is poised for better things in 2006.

The Iraq war and the overall war on terror continue to be a drain on the federal budget, and the Bush administration should start sending bills to the nations of Europe and the Middle East who are getting a free ride on the backs of Uncle Sam. Despite the cost of the war and the huge cleanup facing the Gulf Coast from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the U.S. economy is doing remarkably well.

With absolutely no help from congressional Democrats, who have chosen to become national obstructionists until 2008, the Bush administration can point to the creation of 1.8 million new jobs in 2005 — nearly 4.5 million jobs since May 2003. The economy actually got stronger as the year progressed, growing at a 4.3 percent pace in the third quarter.

Credit the booming U.S. economy to the middle-class tax cuts that President Bush pushed through Congress. Americans have more money to spend, invest and save. So don’t believe the tired lines about "tax cuts for the rich" that the left-wing brigade keeps pushing. More Americans own homes than at any other point in the nation's history.

The Bush tax cuts need to be made permanent and there's no better time to tell your congressmen, especially the do-nothing Democrats, that their jobs are on the line in 2006 unless they get with the program.

Despite the cacophony of surrender put forth by the radical left, President Bush stood his ground on the war on terror. The result has been remarkable progress in bringing Democracy to parts of the world that have been ground down by fascist dictators for decades.

Three successful elections were held in Iraq in 2005, with tens of millions of men — and, more importantly, women — risking their lives to make a bold statement to the world: "We want freedom and peace. We want a future for our children." Contrast that with images of a caged animal named Saddam Hussein, once the supreme dictator of all of Iraq now on trial for his life. "This year, we watched the Iraqi people defy the terrorists and suicide bombers and hold three successful elections, voting to choose the only constitutional, democratic government in the Arab world," Bush said in a New Year's Eve radio broadcast taped at his Texas ranch. "We also saw the people of Afghanistan elect a democratic parliament in a nation that only a few years ago was ruled by the Taliban."

Take that John Murtha, Cindy Sheehan and Howard Dean.

With a smooth transition from the Alan Greenspan era accomplished, the U.S. economy is revving up at twice the rate of almost any other nation. "Inflation is low, productivity is high and small businesses are flourishing," Bush said. "Real disposable income is up. Consumers are confident, and early reports suggest good retail sales this holiday season."

Other successes for the president include the confirmation of John Roberts as chief justice of the Supreme Court. When Judge Samuel Alito joins the court in a few weeks, the president will have fulfilled one of his key campaign promises: Steer the court back on the right path, away from the judicial activism of radical liberal judges. And let’s keep our fingers crossed that John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be the next two justices to leave the court.

The appointment of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a move opposed by the hysterical left, has already paid dividends for the U.S., forcing the most corrupt organization on the planet to work for meaningful reform. Only Kofi Annan still stands in the way of reforming the U.N.

There were setbacks in 2005 for Bush. Democrats managed to scuttle Bush’s plans to reform Social Security by scaring a lot of older Americans unnecessarily. Voters should not allow the Democrats to get away with it. Social Security is bankrupt, thanks primarily to raids of the trust fund by democratically controlled Congresses over the past 40 years.

Note to the 78 million baby boomers who are planning to retire soon only to find out that there’s nothing left in the Social Security and Medicare programs: Knock on Ted Kennedy’s door and ask what he did with your money.

The failure to renew the Patriot Act, which has protected U.S. citizens from terrorist plots over the past three years, is another open-and-shut case of dereliction of duty on the part of Democrats.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Fan mail about recent columns

Here’s a couple of interesting letters from readers in response to recent columns I’ve written:

Who are Pa. legislators working for?

I would like to respond to the recent vewpoint by William Evans, Berks County Democratic Party Chairman, who criticized columnist Tony Phyrillas.

I have been a regular reader of The Mercury and make it a point to follow Tony Phyrillas’ columns. He has criticized both Republicans and Democrats. His recent assessment of the work of two Berks County Democratic legislators is not a case of sour grapes, but more a case of rotten apples.

The people of Berks County may be fortunate to have Sen. Mike O'Pake and Rep. Dante Santoni. I don’t know where these two gentlemen stand on every issue, but I can tell you two issues they have not addressed and the people of Berks County should know this.

First, where do they stand on lobbyist disclosure? Why is Pennsylvania the only state without laws regulating the rotten apples in the barrel? If they took care of that matter than maybe, just maybe, the small business owners could see some health care reform, like House Bill 1240 and Senate Bill 671.

Even though these bills are tied up in committee because of the lobbyists efforts, I have not see either of these veteran legislators take a stand and try to move them out of committee. Both committee chairs are sitting on these meaningful bills. It’s time small business owners had a say in the health care matter. So if these two gentlemen have done so much good for the voters of Berks County then they wouldn’t mind proposing lobbyist reform legislation and using their influence to get HB 1240 and SB 671 out onto the full floor.

I disagree with Mr. Evan’s partisan assessment of Tony’s columns. I have always found Tony’s articles to be truthful.

Spring-Ford Business Association

Assault on Christianity from the left

I hope everyone had an opportunity to read the columns Tony Phyrillas wrote on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day about the relentless attack on Christianity by the secular left.

In view of the fact Pennsylvania voters finally got on their feet and grabbed the attention of their part-time legislators (with full-time salaries and benefits), it would now seem to be an excellent time to do something similar with those legislators in Washington and have them find a way to nip the secular movement in the bud!

Why not launch an effort to encourage those same voters to become more aware of the power and the presence of the overwhelming number of individuals who proudly identify themselves with a church or synagogue here in these United States? And, hopefully, those voters would speak up and contact individuals in the Senate and the House of Representatives. There must be a way to do something positive!

There is no apparent reason a minuscule movement spearheaded by an atheist, Michael Newdow, (who seems to believe God and religion are bad for our country) should now dictate policy and succeed in changing that which was set forth and given to us by our founding fathers over 216 years ago In other words, let us not be complacent and sit on our hands and allow another Madeleine Murray O’Hare to widen the secular influence. It has already achieved far too much foothold!

Historically, O’Hare’s efforts succeeded in banning prayer from the public schools in 1963 on behalf of her son, William. Ironically, he renounced his atheism in 1980, became a Christian, and subsequently an evangelist for Christianity.


Columnist takes to the radio airwaves to skewer Democrats

Are you sure this is how Bill O'Reilly got his start?

In case you missed it — and you probably did — I was a guest on a radio talk show in Baltimore last week. Host Bruce Elliot was gracious enough to have me lead off his 9 p.m. show on WBAL and kept me on the air for nearly 30 minutes. I’m told that that’s a lifetime in radio time.

This was my second appearance on a radio talk show. I was a guest on a Pittsburgh radio show last year. In both cases, the host read one of my columns online and asked me to come on the show to explore the topics further. The topic of the Pittsburgh appearance was a column on the fictional wall of separation between church and state. Those words don’t appear anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. Liberal judges invented the concept to force their secular agenda on American society.

The subjects of Wednesday's Baltimore show were columns I wrote about the Democratic Party’s attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq and the ongoing smear campaign driving President Bush’s poll numbers to historic lows.

Elliot was a gracious host and had excellent questions. I don’t have a transcript of the show, but I’ll do my best to recreate the conversation for faithful readers. To the best of my recollection, this is how the interview went:

HOST: What do you make of George W. Bush's poll numbers, which were down for months, but have started creeping higher?

PHYRILLAS: The reason Bush had such low job approval ratings is the relentless and calculated attacks by the Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media. It's an orchestrated smear campaign. Unfortunately, there's a large segment of the public who believes something if they hear it often enough. As I said in one of my columns, the only approval number that matters is the number of days the president has kept this country safe from terrorist attacks.

HOST: You’ve been pretty harsh on the Democratic leadership. Do you really believe that Democrats would intentionally place this country in danger?

PHYRILLAS: First, I don't think the president should govern based on polls. That's what Bill Clinton did and the results were disastrous. Sept. 11 might never have happened had Bill Clinton defended this country against attacks by Islamic fanatics, but Clinton didn’t want to offend the United Nations or Muslims or his far left benefactors. Attacks on this country started in 1993 with the first bombing of the World Trade Center and continued with the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. Clinton failed to respond to any of them. Osama bin Laden was offered to the Clinton administration on a silver platter, but Clinton let him go. As a result, bin Laden figured he could attack the U.S. with impunity. He escalated those attacks, culminating with 9/11."

HOST: But you believe Democrats are harming the war effort?

PHYRILLAS: I've never seen such shameful behavior on the part of my fellow citizens as I’ve witnessed in Democratic Party leadership over the past five years. The hysterical left can’t accept the fact that voters rejected their heroes — Al Gore and John Kerry. We hear about the insurgents in Iraq, but we have an insurgency right here in the United States. The radical left has been waging a terror campaign of lies and distortion against our government since George W. Bush took office in 2001.

HOST: Have you heard Howard Dean's comments that we can't win the war in Iraq? What do you make of his remarks?

PHYRILLAS: I've come to the conclusion that there is no reason for the Democratic Party to exist any more. People like Howard Dean and George Soros have destroyed the party. Democrats have nothing to offer on any issues of public policy anymore. Take any issue — Iraq, Social Security, Medicare, tax reform, energy, health care, the Patriot Act — and show me where the Democrats have offered a viable alternative.

HOST: I've found that the party that wins elections is the party that has a vision of where it wants to take this country. If all you do is oppose everything the other party stands for, you’re never going to win. Do you agree?

PHYRILLAS: Why would any sane person oppose the Patriot Act if it has protected the United States from attack since 9/11? Yet, the Democrats refuse to extend it to embarrass the president politically. How much more helpful can Democrats and their ACLU allies be to America’s enemies? Why would anyone want to be a member of a political party whose No. 1 goal is to decrease our national security?

HOST: The Democrats think opposition to the Iraq War will help them regain control of Congress in 2006. What do you say?

PHYRILLAS: Using the war for political gain has already backfired on the Democrats. The radical left that controls the party is losing support daily. If mainstream Democrats don’t regain control of their party, they’re going to lose in 2006 and lose the 2008 presidential election. The radical left has spread it sinister influence on the Democratic Party with each passing year. Look at the results. Democrats have lost 7 of the last 10 presidential elections. Democrats have lost every Congressional election since 1994. There’s reason voters keep rejecting the Democratic Party. Voters don't trust Democrats to protect this nation from terrorists. That's why John Kerry lost in 2004. So what does Dr. Howard Dean prescribe for Democrats? He advocates surrender in Iraq and opposition to the Patriot Act — two strategies that invite more attacks on the U.S.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at