Friday, July 06, 2007

Casino bosses, state workers sue Pennsylvania

Some interesting developments late Friday as Pennsylvania politicians begin their death march toward shutting down state government because of a budget stalemate between Gov. Ed Rendell and the state Legislature.

Pennsylvania's largest state employees' union threatened a lawsuit to block Monday’s anticipated furloughs of 25,000 state employees.

The lawsuit is expected to be filed Saturday in Commonwealth Court, seeking an injunction to prevent the furloughs, according to David Fillman, executive director of Council 13 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The interesting thing about the lawsuit is that it doesn't challenge the state’s authority to furlough workers if it doesn’t have an approved budget for the fiscal year. (Are the union workers going to donate their time?) If the state doesn't have the money to pay workers, what else can it do?

Fillman said the union is challenging the legality of dividing most state workers' jobs into "essential" and "nonessential classifications. The 25,000 nonessential workers have been sent letters telling them to stay home Monday because the state doesn’t have the money to pay them. But there’s 45,000 other state workers who will continue on the job and receive paychecks.

Casino bosses are one step ahead of the labor union.

The owners of Pennsylvania's fledgling slot-machine parlors filed a lawsuit Friday afternoon asking the Commonwealth Court to prevent the state from closing the casinos because of the budget impasse.

The owners of Philadelphia Park Racetrack & Casino, Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack, Presque Isle Downs, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs and The Meadows Racetrack & Casino filed the lawsuit seeking a temporary injunction to keep them open even if the state shuts down many of its services. (It's one thing if we shut down a state park, but heaven forbid we can't gamble on Monday.)

Gov. Rendell, who originally said the casinos would stay open, now says that the slots parlors have to close at 7 a.m. Monday because the Revenue Department workers who run computers that monitor slot-machine cash flow are among those who would be furloughed.

A judge is expected to rule on the casino lawsuit over the weekend.

You know my feelings from earlier posts about who's to blame for the budget mess. (Hint: It rhymes with Spendell.)

But I have a problem with the fact that unions and casino owners can put pressure on elected officials. Who does the governor and the Legislature answer to? The people or the unions and the casinos?

Will the threat of losing casino revenues force politicians to make bad decisions on the budget?

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