Saturday, June 30, 2007

No more quack sessions?

Somebody pinch me. Can it be? The Pennsylvania Legislature is moving toward eliminating the infamous "lame duck" sessions that have been part of Legislative tradition since Camille "Bud" George first came to Harrisburg nearly 100 years ago.

In a surprise move Friday, the Senate approved a bill calling for a Constitutional amendment to ban the nasty practice of allowing politicians to vote or pass bills after the voters have shown them the door.

The "lame-duck" sessions happen every two years after the voters have had an opportunity to throw some of the bums out. The next opportunity for political quackery comes at the end of 2008.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Robert Regola, said tax increases, debt increases and government pay raises have passed the Legislature during the "lame-duck" periods, reports the Associated Press. Regola also noted that the pace of bills moving through the Legislature rises to a "frantic" level as the General Assembly closes out its two-year session, the AP says.

"This is not how the framers of our Constitution envisioned the process to work," Regola said during his comments on the floor.

The bill, which goes to the House, passed 41-8. It should have been 50-0. I'm going to find out who the eight Senators who voted against the bill were and share the names with you.

Let's hope those champions of reform in the House greet the bill with equal enthusiasm.

The "lame-duck" sessions are held before the General Assembly's two-year term closes Nov. 30 in even-numbered years. During those four weeks, votes can be cast by legislators who are retiring or were defeated and will not return in the next two-year session.

Although 55 legislators were forced out of office by the voters last year, many of the political hacks resisted the temptation to run amock in a "lame duck" session. I guess the pay raise fiasco really put the fear of God in many of them.

The Senate bill provides an exception for emergency sessions called by the governor. You know, in case Rendell needs to find more money for SEPTA or pass another tax hike before Christmas.

Now for the bad news. Even if the measure passes the House, Bud George may not be around to see the end of "lame duck" sessions.

Constitutional amendments must receive approval from both the House and Senate in two consecutive two-year sessions of the Legislature. Then it goes to the voters for approval in a statewide referendum.

You might get that tax cut Rendell has been promising quicker than a Constitutional amendment can be passed in this state.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Usual Suspects at Pennsylvania GOP gathering

The Republican State Committee is holding a three-day gathering in Hershey this weekend to infuse a little life in the Grand Old Party, which is on life-support.

What do Pennsylvania Republicans leaders have to show under the current leadership?

Let me count the ways: Losing the governor's mansion to Ed Rendell twice; Losing a U.S. Senate seat to Bobby "Bland" Casey Jr.; Losing the state House in 2006 after 12 years of GOP control; and being a key contributor to losing Republican control of Congress.

And let's not get into the party's inability to raise money or keep up with Democrats when it comes to registering voters.

I have a suggestion for a theme at this year's conclave at Hershey Lodge. "Rearranging the decks chairs on the Titanic."

Pennsylvania GOP honchos couldn't even attract a single Republican presidential candidate to stop by for a cup of coffee. That's how far Pennsylvania has dropped off the GOP radar.

The only candidate who showed interest, John McCain, bowed out at the last minute. That might be a good thing. McCain is toast with GOP voters after the immigration fiasco.

And speaking of fiascos, Sen. Arlen Specter probably couldn't get in the door of this weekend's event. What little support Specter had from Pennsylvania Republicans evaporated by Specter's support of the Senate amnesty bill. (Although I hear there will be protesters in Hershey to remind everyone that Specter favors amnesty for illegals.)

What do GOP delegates have to look forward to this weekend? Karl Rove and Tom Ridge.

Ann Coulter wasn't available?

Who do you want as your keynote speaker at an event designed to energize the party other than the strategist who guided Republicans to the disastrous loss of Congress in 2006? Karl Rove is so yesterday.

And as for Ridge, he doesn't even live in Pennsylvania anymore. Ridge probably has more to do with the current malaise in the Pennsylvania GOP than anyone. When was the last time Ridge won an election? His poor record as governor (and in guiding the party) set in motion the GOP's current woes.

This is the best the Pennsylvania GOP could do? Retreads like Karl Rove and Tom Ridge?

I don't know about you, but the Libertarian Party is looking better all the time.

Memo to Rendell, O'Pake, Santoni: Thanks for nothing

School districts all over Pennsylvania are adopting their new budgets. I have yet to hear of one district that isn't raising taxes again. We have Gov. Ed Rendell and our representatives in the Pennsylvania Legislature for sticking it to the taxpayers once again.

My school district in Berks County just approved its new budget. I've lived in the district for 14 years and my taxes have risen 14 times.

The Antietam School Board voted 7-2 this week to approve its 2007-08 budget of $13.2 million. That's a $665,000 increase over the current year's budget of $12.5 million. The School Board also voted 7-2 to raise property taxes for district residents by 5.3 percent to blance the 2007-08 budget.

Antietam, which covers the borough of Mount Penn and the township of Lower Alsace, has the highest school property tax rate in Berks County at 30.80 mills. That means that a homeowner whose property is assessed at $100,000 will pay $3,080 in school property taxes.

The bill will be coming in July. You can thank the seven members of the current school board for the tax hike, but let's not forget Gov. Rendell, who has promised to lower property taxes for five years in a row, but still hasn't delivered 1 cent in property tax relief to homeowners.

And let's not forget state Sen. Michael A. O'Pake and state Rep. Dante Santoni. Both of these career politicians have been promising for decades to do something about property taxes. We're still waiting. Keep in mind that both O'Pake and Santoni will seek re-election in 2008.

O'Pake and Santoni have failed taxpayers repeatedly. It's time to end the status quo in Harrisburg and elect people who will fight for taxpayers, not line their own pockets and ignore the wishes of the people.

Unlike the residents of Mount Penn and Lower Alsace who have to struggle to pay their property taxes, O'Pake and Santoni gave themselves automatic annual pay raises (unless the Legislature votes to turn the money down). That hasn't happened yet.

The only members of the Antietam School Board who sided with taxpayers are John Fielding and Lisa Iezzi. Both voted against the budget and against the tax increase.

The rest of the board members will tell you that they had no choice but to raise taxes because the state doesn't provide adequate funding for public education. The may have a point, but how is it that the cost of running a school district rises at twice the rate of inflation every year? It's too easy for local school boards to pass tax hikes and blame it on the state.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Amnesty bill meets a fitting death

Chalk one up for the will of the American people.

The "immigration reform" bill pushed by a motley crew that included President Bush, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Ted Kennedy died on the Senate floor Thursday. Good riddance.

The people have spoken. Their elected representatives listened for once. The American people said "No" to amnesty for illegal aliens. No to open borders. No to jeopardizing our national sovereignty.

Senate Bill 1639 fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed for cloture, a fancy word for limiting debate, which would have cleared the way for final passage.

The pro-amnesty lobby needed 60 votes to push the amnesty bill through, but could muster only 46 votes, with 53 Senators (mostly Republicans) voting to kill the legislation.

The amnesty bill is dead until after the 2008 presidential elections thanks to hundreds of thousands of phone calls, letters and e-mails sent to Congress by the American people. The pundits predicted a tight vote, but in the end, the Senators heard the voice of the people loud and clear.

Sen. Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, described the fight over the immigration bill as "a war between the American people and their government," adding that the vote on cloture was "about whether or not we're going to listen to the American people."

All of the Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate — including Democratic front-runners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — voted to end debate and advance the bill.

On the Republican side, only Sen. John McCain of Arizona voted to keep the measure alive, effectively killing his chances for the GOP presidential nomination. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas, originally supported the amnesty bill, but switched his vote at the last minute.

Of the 46 votes in favor of amnesty, 33 were cast by Democrats, with 12 Republicans and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut joining the pro-amnesty insurgency.

With mostly Democrats supporting amnesty for illegal aliens, be careful who you vote for in 2008 or you might be welcoming 12 million new U.S. citizens overnight. It's still possible the amnesty bill can be resurrected in the Senate. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., promised: "It will come back — it's only a question of when."

That's why it's important to send a simple message to your senators: "If you vote for amnesty, you'll never get my vote again." That's the message Pennsylvania residents need to send to Arlen Specter and Bob Casey, both of whom supported the amnesty bill despite overwhelming opposition from Pennsylvania residents. Just who are Specter and Casey representing?

Below is a roll call of how 99 Senators voted Thursday. Find out how your senators voted and remind them that their jobs are on the line if they defy the will of the American people again.

(A "NAY" vote was a vote to kill the Senate amnesty bill.)

YEAs — 46 ("YEAS" voted to keep the amnesty bill alive)

Akaka (D-HI) Bennett (R-UT) Biden (D-DE) Boxer (D-CA) Cantwell (D-WA) Cardin (D-MD) Carper (D-DE) Casey (D-PA) Clinton (D-NY) Conrad (D-ND) Craig (R-ID) Dodd (D-CT) Durbin (D-IL) Feingold (D-WI) Feinstein (D-CA) Graham (R-SC) Gregg (R-NH) Hagel (R-NE) Inouye (D-HI) Kennedy (D-MA) Kerry (D-MA) Klobuchar (D-MN) Kohl (D-WI) Kyl (R-AZ) Lautenberg (D-NJ) Leahy (D-VT) Levin (D-MI) Lieberman (ID-CT) Lincoln (D-AR) Lott (R-MS) Lugar (R-IN) Martinez (R-FL) McCain (R-AZ) Menendez (D-NJ) Mikulski (D-MD) Murray (D-WA) Nelson (D-FL) Obama (D-IL) Reed (D-RI) Reid (D-NV) Salazar (D-CO) Schumer (D-NY) Snowe (R-ME) Specter (R-PA) Whitehouse (D-RI) Wyden (D-OR)

NAYs — 53 ("NAYs" voted to kill the Senate amnesty bill)

Alexander (R-TN) Allard (R-CO) Barrasso (R-WY) Baucus (D-MT) Bayh (D-IN) Bingaman (D-NM) Bond (R-MO) Brown (D-OH) Brownback (R-KS) Bunning (R-KY) Burr (R-NC) Byrd (D-WV) Chambliss (R-GA) Coburn (R-OK) Cochran (R-MS) Coleman (R-MN) Collins (R-ME) Corker (R-TN) Cornyn (R-TX) Crapo (R-ID) DeMint (R-SC) Dole (R-NC) Domenici (R-NM) Dorgan (D-ND) Ensign (R-NV) Enzi (R-WY) Grassley (R-IA) Harkin (D-IA) Hatch (R-UT) Hutchison (R-TX) Inhofe (R-OK) Isakson (R-GA) Landrieu (D-LA) McCaskill (D-MO) McConnell (R-KY) Murkowski (R-AK) Nelson (D-NE) Pryor (D-AR) Roberts (R-KS) Rockefeller (D-WV) Sanders (I-VT) Sessions (R-AL) Shelby (R-AL) Smith (R-OR) Stabenow (D-MI) Stevens (R-AK) Sununu (R-NH) Tester (D-MT) Thune (R-SD) Vitter (R-LA) Voinovich (R-OH) Warner (R-VA) Webb (D-VA)

Not Voting - 1 Johnson (D-SD)

Harry Reid, pandering to the Democrats' liberal base, criticized the growing anti-amnesty movement, saying calls and letters have been "filled with prejudice and hatred and venom." It's called Democracy, senator. The right of the people to petition their government. Your side didn't win. Don't insult the American people any more than you have by just being in the Senate.

Another liberal stalwart, Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, said the American people are too stupid to understand that opening the nation's borders to anyone who wants to come in is a good thing. Amnesty opponents "don't understand the bill," Feinstein lamented.

Feinstein urged her colleagues to vote for cloture because "if we miss this opportunity, there is not likely to be another opportunity in the next few years to fix this."

Fix this? The same way Congress "fixed" the immigration problem in 1986 with another "comprehensive immigration reform bill" that failed to prevent millions of illegal aliens from entering the United States?

There is a fix, but it must follow a certain order: 1) Secure the U.S.-Mexico border. 2) Punish employers who hire illegal workers. 3) Document the illegal aliens already here. 4) Deport the criminals. 5) Make the 12 million illegals already here get in line with all those waiting legally to become U.S. citizens.

That's comprehensive immigration reform.

Illegal alien who injured judge flees the U.S.

A blind person could have seen this one coming.

An illegal alien who caused a crash that seriously injured a Pennsylvania judge has fled the U.S. to his native Guatemala to avoid prosecution. Surprise. Surprise.

How did the alien get out? He boarded a commercial flight in Newark, N.J., and landed safely in his home country, thumbing his nose all the way at the U.S. legal system and our homeland security bureaucracy. Incredible!

A judge issued a warrant for Rigobert Garcia-Ortega's arrest for failure to appear after Garcia-Ortega was a no-show at a pretrial hearing in Montgomery County Court Thursday.

This incident explains why so many Americans oppose the amnesty bill that President Bush and Congress have been trying to ram down our throats. The bill would have given more rights to illegal alients, who currently enjoy protection under U.S. law even though they broke the law by entering this country illegally.

Garcia-Ortega's case is typical.

His lawyer managed to get the illegal alien out on bail after the crash and even got an out-of-county judge to hear the case because the crash victim was a member of the Montgomery County Court.

A new judge was specially appointed to handle the case when Montgomery County judges were recused from handling the matter to avoid the appearance of impropriety, according to reporter Carl Hessler, who filed a story about the fugitive for The Mercury in Pottstown.

Imagine that. We wouldn't want the illegal alien to have to appear before a local judge. Montgomery County must pay for the expense to bring a judge from out of the region so the illegal alien can get a fair hearing.

Too bad the illegal fled the country before his fair hearing could be held.

Here's more information from Hessler's story that will leave you shaking your head:

Montgomery County Judge Thomas P. Rogers, 55, of Worcester, was injured during the 10:11 a.m. Dec. 17 crash at North Park Avenue and Amy Drive in Lower Providence. Authorities alleged a vehicle operated by Garcia-Ortega rear-ended Rogers' vehicle.

Garcia-Ortega, 23, was supposed to appear at Thursday's hearing during which Assistant District Attorney Wallis Brooks was seeking to revoke the $25,000 own recognizance bail that had allowed Garcia-Ortega to remain free pending trial on charges of accidents involving personal injury while not properly licensed and several summary traffic violations, according to Hessler's story.

"The commonwealth's concern at the time we filed the motion to revoke bail was that the defendant would flee the country," Brooks said. "Our concern proved valid when he in fact has fled the country."

Defense lawyer Patrick J. McMenamin Jr. told the judge he wrote to Garcia-Ortega on three occasions in preparation for Thursday's scheduled hearing but that he did not get a response.

However, McMenamin said he received a call Wednesday from Garcia-Ortega's interpreter, who advised that someone had driven Garcia-Ortega to Newark International Airport in New Jersey on June 20 to catch a flight to Guatemala.

"I assume that's what happened," McMenamin said.

McMenamin previously argued that Garcia-Ortega was not a risk to flee, claiming the man had resided at the same address since he came to the U.S. and that he lived and worked with relatives.

But McMenamin speculated Garcia-Ortega may have decided to flee because he feared languishing for a long time in county and federal custody before facing eventual deportation.

McMenamin believes Garcia-Ortega also was aware of news accounts about an Indonesian illegal immigrant who was sentenced this month to jail for driving without a license in connection with a fatal crash on the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and who faces deportation.

"I think that was of great concern to him. I think at that point in time that is when he probably made the decision," said McMenamin, speculating Garcia-Ortega may have believed that if he was going to be deported anyway he may as well go to Guatemala now.

County authorities plan to contact immigration officials to notify them about the turn of events.

"We would like to see him brought to justice. Obviously the matter is complicated now by the fact that he has left the confines of the United States and he's gone to a foreign country," Brooks said. "It is my hope that no matter how long it takes, be it weeks, months or years, somehow this man is brought to justice."

Authorities would also like to know who drove Garcia-Ortega to the airport. "I think that further investigation might be appropriate to determine exactly what transpired here with regard to this trip to Newark airport," Brooks said.

At the time of his arrest, Garcia-Ortega's bail was set at $50,000 cash. However, the bail was reduced to $25,000 unsecured at a January preliminary hearing under an agreement between police and defense lawyers in exchange for Garcia-Ortega's agreeing to waive the preliminary hearing, according to authorities.

Prosecutors then filed a request to revoke Garcia-Ortega's bail in April.

"We feel we did everything we could by filing the motion to revoke bail and being in a posture to aggressively pursue the charges," Brooks explained.

But a hearing on the bail revocation request was delayed pending the appointment of an out-of-county judge to hear the case.

A federal immigration detainer was not placed on Garcia-Ortega. County authorities speculated federal immigration officials don't necessarily detain illegal immigrants until they are convicted of crimes.

Prosecutors claimed Rogers, who is a former Lower Providence police chief, sustained "serious injuries" in the crash and was unconscious for more than two hours. In a criminal complaint, police said Rogers suffered injuries to the head and hospitalized.

This comedy of errors (actually a tragedy of errors) is exactly why the amnesty bill was defeated in the Senate.

An illegal alien who broke the law the day he entered this country violates traffic laws and injures a U.S. citizens (a judge no less). The illegal alien then manipulates the U.S. justice system to get out on bail and manages to flee the U.S. on a commercial flight.

Maybe we can have a legal scholar such as Sen. Ted Kennedy explain this to us.

Our government won't enforce the immigration laws already on the books. What makes you think adding new laws and making it easier for illegals to become citizens would deal with the problem of having 12 million undocumented aliens living in the United States?

We have to secure the border first, then address the problem of the illegals among us.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The disconnect between the people and politicians

Has there ever been a bigger disconnect between the people and their elected officials?

The majority of Americans want the U.S. out of Iraq. President Bush isn't listening, continuing with a failed strategy into its fifth year of the war.

Congress, controlled by the Democrats largely on their promise to end the Iraq War, doesn't have the backbone to pull U.S. troops out of harm's way. The Democrats who won last November on the promise to bring the troops home immediately have turned into doormats. Keep that in mind when they seek re-election in 2008.

The vast majority of Americans oppose amnesty for the 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S., but Bush and Congress are stumbling over each other to see how quickly they can offer amnesty and a fast track to U.S. citizenship for 12 million lawbreakers.

Americans want government to live within its means. Congress continues to spend billions on pet projects and pork. Nothing has changed since Nancy Pelosi took control except that Democrats instead of Republicans are now wasting our tax dollars.

Closer to home, in Pennsylvania, the state Legislature is days away from approving a $27 billion budget despite calls from citizens to control state spending and eliminate property taxes.

From 1990 to 2006, Pennsylvania's General Fund Budget increased from $12.4 billion to $26.1 billion -- an increase of 40 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the Commonwealth Foundation, an independent, nonprofit public policy research instituted in Harrisburg.

Over the same period, personal income increased by only 25 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to the Foundation.

And that's just the General Fund Budget. Overall state spending has reached $60 billion a year.

How can Pennsylvania's aging population afford to pay for government spending that has mushroomed to $60 billion a year? Many are selling their homes and moving out of state. Others who can't leave are choosing between food and heat. Young people, facing the prospect of high taxes and lack of good-paying jobs, are fleeing the state.

Gov. Ed Rendell has promised to reduce property taxes in each of his five years in office, but has yet to deliver $1.00 in tax relief to any of the state's residents.

One of the broken promises, the approval of 61,000 slot machines to eventually provide property tax relief, has taken an interesting twist. Rendell now wants the Legislature to divert part of the casino revenues to fund a $300 million arena for the Pittsburgh Penguins and expand the Philadelphia Convention Center.

Ask a retired couple barely meeting expenses if they want the casino revenue they were promised for tax relief to go to themselves and their families or to help corporate fat cats build sports arenas.

Fifty-five members of the Pennsylvania Legislature were tossed out of office or forced into retirement in 2006, largly as punishment for the July 2005 raid on the state treasury when the Legislature and governor gave themselves pay raises of up 54 percent.

That wasn't enough to get their attention. Too many career politicians, including Rendell, were returned to office.

More than 100 Legislators need to be voted out in 2008 to send a message to Harrisburg that the will of the people can no longer be ignored. And all those phony reformers in the Democratic Party who won Congressional seats in 2006? They need to be booted out in 2008.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows

There's an interesting discussion going on at about well-known Pennsylvania Republicans donating money to Democratic politicians.

That's no misprint. Republican leaders are giving money to Democrats.

And you wonder why Pennsylvania's Republican Party is in shambles, having lost a U.S. Senate seat, a half-dozen Congressional seats, the governship and majority control of the state House in the past six years. Take a look in the mirror folks. We have met the enemy and it's us.

Here's some of the discussion from the PaWaterCooler site:

For a Republican to give money to a Democrat is a bad thing. (tm)

This topic has been hashed over in the Pennsylvania blogosphere. Endlessly… mostly surrounding the back and forth battles between Montgomery County businessman Bob Guzzardi and Montgomery County businessman Bob Asher (and his surrogates).

Mr Guzzardi gives money to advance his agenda of “good government”… while I disagree with giving money to Democrats, rather preferring to work through the party endorsement and primary process, I certainly support his right to distribute his money as he sees fit. (Something like 80% (480K vs 120K) went to Republicans, however).

In any case, the talking point is “Giving Money to Democrats is a Bad Thing.(tm)”
The Pennsylvania Future Fund, whose chairman is
Bob Asher (and a board member is outgoing Montco commissioner Tom Ellis), is doing a bad thing.

On the 8th of May, the fund gave Philadelphia Democrat Michael Nutter $5,000. While Al Taubenberger’s chances in an 80% Democrat registered municipality may be small, does Nutter really need $5 grand from Republicans?

Bob Asher is also on the Republican National Committee, as Pa’s national committeeman, and a former GOP state chairman, as well as former Montco GOP Chair.

Perhaps giving money to Democrats isn’t a problem. Maybe it’s the amount. Or… the lesson here is that Guzzardi should start a PAC and insulate his money.

In any case, I trust that Ron Harper will extend Montcowatch to the Pa Future Fund.

All I can say is that with GOP leaders like the ones mentioned above, who needs enemies? The Democrats just have to sit back and watch as Republicans stab each other in the back.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

44 million Americans without health coverage

The number of American adults without health insurance has jumped by 2 million, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Almost 44 million Americans — equal to the combined population of 24 states — are listed as uninsured in 2006, a 6 percent jump from the previous year.

There are few things that Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell and I agree on. The fact that Pennsylvania has too many residents without health insurance coverage is one of them.

Between 750,000 and 900,000 Pennsylvania adults are uninsured. They are part of the growing tide of working men and women who do not have health coverage.

Rendell's answer for the uninsured is predictable: Raise somebody's taxes and get the government more involved in running health insurance programs.

"More taxes, more government" is the liberal mantra for whatever ails you when it comes to folks like Ed Rendell and Hillary Clinton.

The key ingredient in Rendell's "Prescription for Pennsylvania" is to impose a tax on employers who don't provide health coverage for workers.

The problem with raising taxes on employers is that it will force some of them out of business because they can't afford to insure workers. That will put more workers in the ranks of the uninsured. Tax-and-spend liberals like Rendell never think through their knee-jerk "solutions" to problems.

Inexplicably, Rendell waited until his fifth year in office before addressing the problem of uninsured workers. Didn't these people need health coverage in the first four years of Rendell's tenure?

Rendell has been unwilling so far to address other factors that contribute to the uninsured such as malpractice rates, insurance fraud, bureaucratic waste and tort reform.

Rendell's Insurance Department might as well be a PR/Marketing wing for the big insurance lobby in Pennsylvania. (Didn't Rendell's insurance secretary just take a job with the insurance industry?)

Instead of looking out for Pennsylvania consumers, Rendell's Insurance Department has been a little too cozy with big insurance and has looked the other way while insurance companies have raised their rates astronomically.

And nobody has been able to provide a satisfactory explanation of how non-profit insurance carriers in the state are sitting on billions of dollars in profits. Sounds to me that the Blues are charging way too much for premiums and not paying out enough in claims.

Rendell has failed to support legislation that would help small businesses struggling with the high cost of providing health insurance coverage for their workers.

Bills introduced by state Sen. Rob Wonderling and state Rep. Curt Schroder would go a long way to helping hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who don't have health insurance. Rendell has failed to support these common-sense bills.

And unlike Dr. Rendell's prescription for solving the health insurance problem (getting government more involved in medicine), the Wonderling and Schroder bills would not cost taxpayers a thing.

The bills would simply level the playing field in Pennsylvania by regulating "for-profit" insurance companies. Pennsylvania is one of only two states that do not regulate "for-profit" insurance companies. That means these firms can "cherry-pick" who they want to cover and raise their rates 30 to 50 percent a year if they feel like it.

That's exactly what's been happening in Pennsylvania during Rendell's watch.

The Wonderling and Schroder bills have received bipartisan support from senators and representatives, but have been languishing in Senate and House committees because the insurance industry doesn't want the bills to see the light of day.

The bills would bring "for-profit" insurance companies under the same regulations as "non-profit" agencies such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield and HMOs.

It would level the playing field and provide access to health insurance for thousands of Pennsylvania workers. Under the current system, "for-profit" insurance companies deny coverage to workers with pre-existing conditions or drop them for no reason. They can also charge whatever they want for premiums and raise those premiums 10 or 20 times the rate of inflation.

That has forced small employers — the backbone of Pennsylvania's economy — to pass on health care costs to their workers and their families or drop health coverage entirely.

The health crisis in this country is enormous. It's easy to throw your hands up and give up because it's such a hurdle to climb.

But when there's an opportunity to help people, even a little bit, we have to take it. Pennsylvania has an opportunity to provide immiediate relief to the uninsured by regulating "for-profit" insurance companies.

Rendell raises white flag on Turnpike lease


Pennsylvania Turnpike Won't Take Toll on Teamster Jobs

HARRISBURG -- Victory over a plan to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike resulted from months of lobbying by the Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters, their lobbyists, Teamsters Joint Council No. 53, Teamsters Joint Council No. 40, Teamster General President Jim Hoffa, affiliated local unions and their members.

Gov. Ed Rendell made various concessions on June 26 to legislative critics in hopes it will speed efforts to reach a compromise with the House and Senate on a new state budget. Teamsters were gravely concerned about Gov. Rendell's highly controversial plan to lease the Turnpike -- billed as the "World's Greatest Highway."

Had the Governor's plan materialized, it could have resulted in the elimination of Teamster jobs. Local 30 in Jeannette, Local 77 in Fort Washington and Local 250 in Pittsburgh represent toll takers, maintenance workers and certain supervisors on the Turnpike.

"When 92,000 Teamsters speak you would be wise to listen," Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters President Frank Gillen said. "The Conference has always fought hard on issues adverse to our hard working brothers and sisters. We will continue to stand up and fight for our members."

"Both Teamster Councils working in concert through the Pennsylvania Conference has paid off," said Conference Secretary-Treasurer Roy Marshall. "The Conference acts as a catalyst between Joint Councils 40 and 53, especially on statewide issues such as this Turnpike plan fiasco."

The Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters is the political arm of the Teamsters. It coordinates Teamster political activity and fights for working families on labor, construction and public employee issues. The Conference represents 92,000 members in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and West Virginia.

SOURCE Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters

Monday, June 25, 2007

Tony Phyrillas cracks Top 10 Most Influential Political Blogs

The new Influence Index is out and Tony Phyrillas (the blog) has moved up seven spots to No. 9 on this week's list.

Tony Phyrillas was No. 16 last week in the ranking of the most Influential Political Bloggers in Pennsylvania. (Only the folks at know the secret formula used to determine who makes the Influence Index.)

Last week's No. 1 blog ( slipped a little, but remains the most influential conservative blog in the state. If you take away all the liberal blogs from the list, Tony Phyrillas ranks as the No. 2 conservative blog in the state.

The full list is below.

Pennsylvania's Most Influential Political blogs

1, culture, music and more:::
2 Brendan Calling
3 GrassrootsPA
4 Phillybits
5 Suburban Guerrilla
6 Lehigh Valley Ramblings
7 The Carbolic Smoke Ball
8 The Pennsylvania Progressive
10 Attytood
11 2 Political Junkies
12 Above Average Jane
14 Mark Rauterkus & Running Mates ponder current events
15 Booman Tribune
16 Pennsyltucky Politics
17 PowerBlog!
18 PSoTD
19 Politics: Lehigh Valley Style
20 philly

Saturday, June 23, 2007

'My name is Ed Rendell and I have a problem'

Look up the word "addict" in the dictionary and see if it reminds you of anyone.

1. a person who is addicted to an activity, habit or substance.
2. to cause to become physiologically or psychologically dependent on an addictive substance.
3. to habituate or abandon (oneself) to something compulsively or obsessively: Politicians addicted to raising taxes.

Ed Rendell has a problem. He's a tax addict. He can't control himself. He must spend other people's money. He has to raise taxes. He becomes physically ill if he can't raise somebody's taxes.

He's been doing it all his life, but his addiction has reached new levels since he became governor of Pennsylvania. In his first year in office, Rendell raised the state income tax by 10 percent. Then he ushered in legalized slot machines in Pennsylvania, a form of taxation. He also pushed Act 72 and Act 1 through the Legislature, both tax-shift schemes that have resulted in higher property taxes for Pennsylvania homeowners.

And like so many addicts in denial about their problem, Rendell keeps telling people he's delivered tax relief to Pennsylvania residents when everyone knows that's not true.

The governor is now pushing $2.5 billion in new or expanded taxes to balance his bloated 2007-08 general fund operating budget.

The real sign that Rendell has a problem was the $52 Emergency Services Tax the governor forced through the Legislature in 2004. It's not a lot of money, but it shows you the depths Rendell will go to separate Pennsylvania workers from their hard-earned pay.

The governor sold the tax as a way to support emergency services, hence the name Emergency Services Tax. Who would have a problem tossing in $1 a week to support local firefighters and ambulance services? The only problem is that the money never got to police, firefighters or ambulances.

Act 222 of 2004 amended the Local Tax Enabling Act (Act 511 of 1965) to permit municipalities and school districts (except the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia School District and the Pittsburgh School District) to impose on anyone working within the jurisdiction a combined Emergency and Municipal Services Tax of up to $52 a year beginning January 1, 2005. The new tax replaced the Occupational Privilege Tax municipalities and school districts were charging. The OPT was $10 a year. Almost every municipality in the state imposed the maximum $52 tax on workers once Rendell signed the EMS tax into law.

Municipalities were told they had to use the new EMS tax for police, fire or emergency services but it could also be used for road construction or maintenance or for the reduction of property taxes. (The limitation did not apply to school districts.) Guess what municipalities did with the tax? They put it into their general fund budget and neglected to fund police, fire or emergency services. It was another form of revenue for municipalities. Another tax increase on top of the property tax municipalities already charge. Not one community used the money for tax relief.

Rendell knew all this from the start. He didn't care. He needed a fix. He need to raise taxes. Even $1 a week was enough to satisfy Rendell's addiction at the time.

Fast forward two years and Rendell just signed a bill that would allow municipalities to deduct $1 a week from paychecks to collect the $52. The reason for the change? A lot of people were complaining that a $52 hit in their first paycheck of the year was too much. The high-paid politicians in Harrisburg can't relate to this, but $52 is a lot of money for the average worker, who already sees a big chunck of his payckeck going to taxes every week.

The revised tax bill that Rendell signed also exempts workers earning less than $12,000 from paying the $52 up front. (Before, workers had to file for refunds.)

The new bill will create a logistical nightmare for municipalities. They won't be able to collect the tax up front in January and they will have to guess who is exempt. Once again, the law of unintended consequences is at play here. A tax designed to help municipalities will end up hurting many communities.

The smartest thing to do is repeal the entire tax. But when was the last time anyone repealed a tax? Certainly not Ed Rendell.

The only good thing about the bill Rendell signed is that the governor finally came clean about the $52 tax. The name of the tax has changed to the Local Services Tax.

So as the Legislature continues debate the Rendell budget plan for the new fiscal year, the $27.3 billion budget that requires $2.5 billion in new or expaned taxes, keep the moral of the $52 tax in mind.

Rendell wants to raise taxes on tobacco products, gasoline, electricity and trash disposal services. He wants to tax employers so he can provide healthcare coverage to uninsured workers (as if Pennsylvania isn't doing enough damage already to small businesses).

You wouldn't invite an alcoholic to a bar for a drink. You wouldn't want a drug addict to get access to narcotics. So why would you supply an addict like Ed Rendell with more taxes?

Do Rendell a favor and get him on a 12-step program to kick his habit. In the long run, it will benefit all of us. Tell your legislators, "No new taxes."

Columnist gets it right half the time

People often ask me which columnists I enjoy reading. My all-time favorite is George F. Will, who writes for Newsweek magazine and is syndicated in hundreds of newspapers. I've been reading Will's columns regularly for the past 25 years. Nobody can cut to the heart of an issue — even the most complicated — better than Will.

Other national columnists I make an effort to read regularly include Thomas Sowell, William Rusher, Peggy Noonan, Charles Krauthammer, Cal Thomas and Charley Reese.

Of the group mentioned above, the oddball (and I mean that in a nice way) is Reese, a Florida-based syndicated columnist who holds libertarian views on many issues.

A registered Democrat who still cranks out three columns a week at age 70, Reese has a peculiar trait. His columns make no sense half the time. He's on the money when he writes about domestic issues, but is usually wrong on foreign policy matters, especially when he writes about the Iraq War, Israel and the overall war on terror. Completely out in left field.

One of the reasons libertarians have such a difficult time attracting membership to their political cause is that they are basically isolationists. Unfortunately, the world has changed. America is no longer protected from enemies by the vast oceans off either coast.

I've been reading Reese's columns for about 10 years, although I don't bother reading anything he has to say about foreign policy anymore. But when he sticks to observations about what's happening inside the United States, Reese is dead on.

Here are some of the most interesting things Reese has said in his columns in recent years:

On liberals:

"It goes without saying that liberals hate free markets, big business, even democracy when the voters disagree with them. If truth be known, they hate the human race — at least the part of it that is not them. Darn those human beings for not living their lives according to the liberal prescription."

Accountable government:

"What Americans should demand from their governments at all levels is accountability. Accountability is far more important than transparency, which can be easily faked. Accountability is not complicated. It simply means people must take responsibility for their actions. If their actions are successful, take responsibility; if they are a failure, take responsibility. If we wrongly inure someone, we are held accountable."

On activist judges:

"The Constitution was never intended to deal with moral and philosophical issues, such as abortion. The Founding Fathers properly left those to elected legislatures. That's why Roe v. Wade is a profoundly flawed decision. The court usurped the powers of the 50 state legislatures and, by interpretation, created a right to privacy that the words of the Constitution do not support."

Government as a problem-solver:

"Many Americans have too much faith in government and in laws. Government is like a retarded giant — very powerful and stupid. Almost nothing government tries to do succeeds. Just looking back at the past few decades, it has — despite enormous expenditures — failed to find a cure for cancer, failed to stop illegal drugs, failed to stop illegal immigration, failed to protect the American people from terrorists, failed to improve public education, failed to keep up with repairing infrastructure, failed to eliminate the deficit, failed to eliminate the trade deficit, failed to curb inflation, etc., etc, and so forth. I could go on and on, because virtually every program started by the government has failed in its objectives or sputtered along in the most ineffective and expensive manner."

Dumb voters:

"We have corrupted our political process. Mistake No. 1 is universal suffrage. Voting should be considered a privilege that has to be earned, not a right. People so ignorant they couldn't tell you the name of their state capital should not be allowed to vote."

The establishment:

"The wealthy these days own both (political) parties. The people who don't have a party are the working men and women of America. Most legislation and most policies benefit the wealthy. Usury is virtually legalized in this country. Banks are authorized to create money. Some government programs insure not the homebuyer but the mortgage lender; not the student but the bank that lends him his student loan. We don’t have debtor's prisons anymore, but we have a debtor's hell, and the new laws on bankruptcy are designed to make sure ordinary people can’t get out of it."

Professional politicians:

"Every elected official is a servant, not a master. The heel-clicking, hat-doffing, fawning, yassur-bossman attitude some Americans display toward public officials is odious and inappropriate for a free republic. A public servant, including the president, is entitled to common courtesy — no more, no less. Officeholders are only citizens on temporary duty. That’s why the greatest of all Americans, George Washington, said the only title the president needed was "Mr."

Political correctness:

"A truly free society is one in which people can think, say and do what they please as long as they don’t infringe on other people’s rights to think, say and do as they please. No one has a right to not be offended. No one has a right to demand that others agree with him or her. No one has a right to utter defamatory falsehoods. The reason maintaining a free society is so difficult is that it butts heads with the itch many people have to control other people."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Congress has no credibility left on immigration

While politicians in Washington spend countless hours debating an immigration reform bill hundreds of pages long, the illegal alien dilemma can be summed up with one brief news item from the Poconos region of Pennsylvania.

The headline: "81 illegal immigrants arrested at Poconos plastics plant"

One raid. One business. In one day, 81 illegal aliens rounded up. This is happening everywhere in the United States and shows that the federal government is unwilling or incapable of enforcing existing laws on immigration.

Congress has no credibility left on the immigration issue. What makes you think Ted Kennedy is going to enforce any of the new measures included in his bill?

The amnesty provision that Kennedy, Sen. John McCain and President Bush are pushing is premature.

Here's three-step plan for dealing with illegal immigration.

1) Secure the border first.

2) Find the illegals already inside the U.S.

3) Then, and only then, should we debate what’s to be done with the 12 million illegals.

Wednesday's raid at the Pennsylvania plastics plant by federal agents shows exactly why the current laws don't work. The owners of the manufacturing plant told authorities they had no idea that the 81 workers were illegal.

Since when are companies in the habit of allowing anyone to walk into their facility, let alone people who spend at least 8 hours a day there and collect a paycheck?

The plastics firm blamed a temporary agency for sending the 81 illegal workers to it.

Funny how nobody at the plastics firm noticed that all 81 of the illegal workers were named Pedro Gonzalez. Coincidence I guess.

There's entirely too much collusion between big business and Washington politicians on the immigration question.

Where are the sanctions that Kennedy and the open border crowd say are included in immigration reform? There are no teeth behind the immigration bill before Congress.

Kennedy and the rest of the Democrats are more interested in registering the "undocumented Americans" as they like to call the illegals as members of the Democratic Party more than they are in enforcing our laws.

The Pennsylvania company, which makes plastic squeeze tubes for lotions, has not been charged with wrongdoing. Government officials would not identify the temp agency that supplied the illegals to the manufacturing firm.

This sort of thing is happening in every state. The people charged with enforcing our laws have failed to do their job. This is why we must stop Congress from selling our national sovereignty.

Demand action on property taxes

Two-thirds of Pennsylvania residents want the elimination of property taxes, but Gov. Ed Rendell and his Democratic puppets in the Legislature are proposing to spend $27.3 billion for the fiscal year starting July 1, a plan that Rendell says will require $2 billion in new or expanded taxes. What we have here is failure to communicate. Rendell and the Democratic lemmings who populate Harrisburg aren't getting the message.

They needed to be reminded that they work for us and need to follow the will of the people. Any Democrat who votes for Rendell's tax increases should be punished in 2008 by the voters.

There is a plan before the Legislature to eliminate all school property taxes in the state. It should be Priority No. 1 for the Legislature.
From the editorial page of The Mercury, here's what you need to do this week if you want to see genuine property tax relief:

Legislators urged to support plan for tax reform

A coalition of Pennsylvania taxpayer groups has chosen this week to wage a renewed push for tax reform.

The statewide rejection of Act 1 in the May primary opened the door for another look at property tax reform in Harrisburg, but legislative leaders are taking their time in crossing the threshold and taking up the cause.

That hasn't stopped state Rep. Sam Rohrer of Berks County from renewing his campaign to get support for his Plan for Pennsylvania's Future, commonly known as the Commonwealth Caucus plan.

The plan, introduced by a House Republican caucus group that includes Rohrer, calls for elimination of local property taxes and a broader-based statewide sales tax to fund public schools.

According to an e-mail sent out last week to taxpayer advocacy groups, Rohrer's office is asking 10,000 homeowners to support the plan this week with an e-mail and telephone blitz to all House members.

The message to homeowners:

"Contact your state representative and voice your opinion that the Plan for Pennsylvania's Future is the solution you want to the school funding and homeownership crisis in Pennsylvania.

"Encourage your representative to contact their leadership with their support of the Plan for Pennsylvania's Future and to tell them that they want school property taxes eliminated NOW."

The Plan for Pennsylvania's Future had the support of area taxpayer groups a year ago when it was part of the legislative debate during the special session on tax reform.

But the plan never got traction, and the result of a year of debate over how best to replace the property tax ended with a lame compromise — Act 1 — that gave retired and low-income property owners a minor tax break but shifted the burden more heavily onto the working homeowner.

The bill became a dead issue on May 15 when ballot questions regarding the tax shift were rejected in nearly every school district in the state.

As legislators were forced back to the drawing board, or on to Act 2 as we like to say, Rohrer's plan has gotten some bipartisan attention.

Gov. Ed Rendell and House Democratic Majority Leader H. William DeWeese have both said publicly they would support a sales tax change if it resulted in meaningful tax reform.

Rohrer says the plan is ready to go and with enough pressure on legislators from the home front, it could be passed this month.

The push this week to gain support is critical and timely. There are still many legislators who fail to grasp the importance of this issue, and many who fail to see the importance of this opportunity.

Pennsylvania needs a bold plan. This one may not be perfect, but it's a forceful step in the right direction. Tell your legislators to take that step and move ahead.

For more information on the Plan for Pennsylvania's Future or for information on how to contact state legislators, visit the Pennsylvania Coalition of Taxpayer Associations Web site at the state House of Representatives Web site

Copyright 2007, The Mercury

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Happy days are here again for Berks County GOP

After a couple of years of uninspired leadership and some infighting, the Berks County Republican Party has united behind a new chairman.

It couldn't have come at a better time. The party is poised to regain majority control of the Berks County Board of Commissioners and needs to focus on the crucial 2008 election year, which features a presidential race and contests for the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Mark M. Gillen, a Bob Jones University graduate who has done a lot of mission work abroad, was the unanimous choice for chairman by the county Republican Committee.

He succeeds Ron Stanko, who took a leave from running the day-to-day affairs of the party months ago to pursue a seat on the Berks County Court of Common Pleas.

All I can say about Gillen's elevation to chairman is that it's about time.

I have nothing against Stanko or his predecessor, Larry Medaglia Jr., but you can't do the work of a party chairman in a competitive county, hold down a full-time job and run for elected office at the same time. Something's gotta give.

Stanko is running against fellow Republican Tim Rowley, who won the Democratic nomination for Berks County Judge in May. Although both men ran a positive campaign in the primary, the race could cause a rift in the GOP. Having the party chairman involved in a contentious race (even if he stepped down temporarily) was not an ideal situation.

Gillen and the Berks County Republican Party have a lot work ahead of them. Democrats have been making inroads in county government in recent years and have controlled the county Board of Commissioners for the past four years.

What has four years of Democratic Party control brought Berks County residents? Higher taxes, rising crime and deteriorating quality of life for starters.

Priority No. 1 for the Berks GOP is to take back majority control of the three-member county commissioners' board. The party has two good candidates in incumbent Mark Scott and newcomer Christian Leinbach.

Another important November race is Recorder of Deeds, where longtime party worker John Fielding will attempt to keep the post in GOP hands.

After the fall election, Gillen better get moving to reorganize grassroots workers and infuse new blood into the party. No disrespect to folks who have spent decades working on behalf of the party, but take a look around at a Republican Committee meeting and you see a lot of white hairs and gray hairs.

The Republican Party has not done a good job of getting younger people involved. The old-timers have to take younger members under their wing if they want the party to have a future.

The election of Gillen, who is 51, is a step in the right direction. The party needs to be energized for the 2008 presidential election.

The Berks County GOP also needs to find good candidates to challenge Sen. Mike O'Pake and state Reps. Tom Caltagirone, Dante Santoni and David Kessler.

The three Democratic dinosaurs -- O'Pake, Caltagirone and Santoni -- have spent a combined 75 years collecting hefty paychecks from taxpayers and enjoying the lavish lifestyle of career Harrisburg politicians.

All three Democrats voted for the July 2005 pay raise for themselves, have supported numerous tax hikes and have failed repeatedly to deliver on their No. 1 promise: Property tax relief to Berks County residents.

Kessler is the "accidental candidate" who won Rep. Dennis Leh's seat in eastern Berks. The phony reformer can be beaten in 2008 with a decent Republican candidate from the 130th District.

It's time for a change and Gillen appears to be the right person to lead the party in the crucial years ahead.

P.S. --- Mr. Gillen, find somebody in the party who knows something about computers and get a Web site going for the county party. It's 2007 and the party acts like it's 1955.

Prepare for a letdown on reform

From the editorial page of The Mercury, here's a look at how the much-ballyhooed reform efforts by the Pennsylvania Legislature will disappoint most residents.

Legislative task force proposals fall short of needed reforms

Some good news came out of Harrisburg last week, but excuse us for not jumping with joy.

The state House commission on legislative reforms made its final recommendations last week, among them a widely praised move to widen open-records laws and campaign finance reporting.

But the reforms are just bringing Pennsylvania out of the dark ages in some cases, and in other cases, fail to go far enough to control legislative spending.

The reform panel voted against term limits for lawmakers and offered a lame attempt to control legislative spending.

While the recommendations to change the Right-to-Know Law are a vast improvement over the present, the panel failed to endorse proposals to have a court "special master" or an Office of Public Access mediate records disputes.

As a result, the law may have more muscle, but a citizen denied access to public records may still struggle with enforcement.

The reform panel voted against both eight-year and 12-year term limits for lawmakers and against allowing committee chairmen to serve only three terms, once again looking out for the interests of legislative leadership at the expense of the rank-and-file.

The chairmanship limits were unanimously supported by the commission's 12 Republican House members, but only five of the 12 Democrats voted for it. Commission rules require at least nine "yes" votes from each party for passage.

The open-records victory was long overdue.

Pennsylvania law currently defines just two categories of government records as public, making it among the weakest access laws in the country.

A proposal to extend the Right-to-Know Law to the Legislature, which is currently exempt, also was unanimously endorsed, although an exception was carved out for "constituent casework" and documents or records related to meetings that do not have to be held in public.

The commission voted in favor of limiting campaign donations in statewide races but could not reach consensus on the size of those limits.

It also voted against shrinking the size of the 253-member General Assembly but endorsed looking for ways to cut legislative spending.

"Looking for ways" falls short of the efficiencies taxpayers would like to see instituted.

The reform panel's goals were to make recommendations on some wholesale changes that would instill more transparency and efficiency in state government to give voters more confidence in their lawmakers.

The proposals made during recent weeks begin that process on some fronts, but legislators have a long way to go before voters will be satisfied that they are doing the jobs they were elected to do in the best and most efficient ways possible.

We are pleased to see the recommendation for open-records reforms and for limits on campaign donations. But left intact are many practices and loopholes that still support the way business has always been conducted in the politicized halls of Harrisburg.

Speaker Dennis O'Brien, R-Philadelphia, said the commission's work is finished. We believe it should be just beginning.

Copyright 2007, The Mercury

The terrific cartoon above is by Randy Bish of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. To view more of Randy's work, go to

A Mighty Wind Blows in Pennsylvania

This is too easy to pass up.

Gov. Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania's chief windbag, held a press conference the other day at the Locust Ridge Wind Farm in Mahanoy City, Schuylkill County. The only thing missing was Al Gore.

Locust Ridge Wind Farm is the state's seventh and newest wind farm facility.

Standing in front of a 400-foot-tall turbine, Rendell indicated this project would help the Commonwealth gain energy independence over fossil fuels.

"Wind energy is part of our future," Rendell said. "It can do for Pennsylvania what coal and oil and gas did for us in the '20s and '30s and '40s and '50s."

If there was a way to bottle the hot air that Ed Rendell generates during the course of his duties as governor, Pennsylvania would gain energy independence overnight.

Throw in the 253 members of the Pennsylvania Legislature and we could supply electricity to the entire East Coast.

Photo credit: (AP Photo/Bradley C. Bower)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Emperor Rendell has new clothes

Several people have inquired about the origin of this terrific depiction of the scantilly-clad Emperor Edward G. Rendell. The artist is Vicki Rhodier of Mount Penn, Pa., a talented artist who has become politically active since the 2005 pay raise. Rhodier sent this drawing to Emperor Rendell last month along with a note asking the governor when he will deliver on his many promises to bring property tax relief to Pennsylvania residents. She still hasn't received a reply from the governor. Like the fictional Emperor who has no clothes, Emperor Rendell keeps changing his clothes every time he makes another promise. As you can see from the empty hangers around his throne, Emperor Rendell has run out of clothes, just like he's run out of excuses for five years of failure to deliver property tax relief to Pennsylvania homeowners.

'Godless dollars' are back again

It appears our secular progressive friends at the U.S. mint have done it again.

The very same people who couldn't explain how thousands of George Washington dollar coins managed to leave the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia without "In God We Trust" stamped on the edge have goofed again.

The Associated Press reported today that new dollar coins featuring John Adams are missing edge inscriptions including "In God We Trust," according to the Professional Coin Grading Service, a rare coin authentication company.

The Mint made the same "mistake" with the George Washington dollar coins earlier this year.

Take heart, coin collectors. The Mint has 40 more chances to get it right as it continues to roll out four presidential coins a year until it puts all the presidential likenesses on coins. That gives the Mint until 2016 to get it right.

The Mint's credibility is a bit strained. Two coins released this year. Two blunders so far?

And of all the stupid mistakes the Mint and its high-paid inspectors could make, it had to be the deletion of "In God We Trust" from the edge of the dollar coins.

The Mint has already come under fire for delegating "In God We Trust" to the edge of coins instead of the traditional placement of the National Motto on the face of the coins. The 2007 debut of the "Godless dollars" marks the first time since 1866 that the National Motto does not appear on the front or back of American dollar coins.

The Mint "has heard about these reports (of the defective Adams' coins) and is looking into them," Jana Prewitt, a spokeswoman for the agency, told the Associated Press.

In addition to missing "In God We Trust," the defective Washington dollar coins were also released without "E Pluribus Unum" and the year and mint mark.

After the initial "godless dollars" were discovered, the Mint pledged to double its monitoring efforts and closely monitor the striking process.

Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

What do you think? Another example of how the secular left is working to remove all Judeo-Christian symbols from the United States or another example of government incompetence?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pennsylvania's Most Influential Political Blogs

The folks at have released a list of the Most Influential Political blogs in Pennsylvania. Guess what? Tony Phyrillas made the inaugural list.

While it's not exactly winning "American Idol" or "Dancing With The Stars," making the Blog Net News most influential list is still a big deal to us lonely bloggers who are never really sure if anyone reads what we have to say. There's bragging rights at stake here and I'm sure everyone will be checking the list each Monday to see if they've moved up or down.

How you get on the list is a closely-guarded secret.

The Pennsylvania Blogosphere Influence Rating combines a variety of data sets "to determine which blogs are most powerfully influencing the direction of the Pennsylvania political blogosphere," according to the site.

The exact method uses to calculate influence scores must remain proprietary in order to prevent attempts to "game the system," according to BlogNetNews administrators.

"'s methodology takes into account the fact that all Internet data is profoundly limited in its reliability by using multiple data sets that, when combined, reveal a fair picture of activity in the blogosphere," according to the site.

Pennsylvania's Most Influential Political blogs

Rank Blog
1 GrassrootsPA

2 Attytood

3 The Pennsylvania Progressive
4 Suburban Guerrilla
5 PowerBlog!
6 The Carbolic Smoke Ball
7 Mark Rauterkus & Running Mates ponder current events


10 Above Average Jane

11, culture, music and more

12 Pennsyltucky Politics
14 Phillybits
15 Brendan Calling

17 Mark A. Kilmer (the weblog)

18 2 Political Junkies

19 Save The GOP

20 The Rittenhouse Review

You can visit at:
(or just click on the link from my Links of Interest list on the left side of this page.)

Blog Net News plans to make the Most Influential List a weekly feature, with the winners announced every Monday.

You can also choose other states to see what the leading bloggers in those states are writing about. also offers you an opportunity to pick from the top Conservative and Liberal sites in each state and readers can also vote on their favorite blogs.

Speaking of favorites, Tony Phyrillas has been ranked the most popular blog in Pennsylvania every week for the past three months by readers of on I'd like to thank everyone who has voted for me.

Sorry, Mom, you can only vote once a day. keeps track of an average daily score of each blog and a cumulative score for the week.

Will the real Dennis O'Brien please stand up

Why is this man smiling, you ask?

It took the newspaper six months, but The Philadelphia Inquirer has finally figured out that Dennis O'Brien, the Republican Speaker in the Democratically-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives, isn't voting with the Republicans. Far from it. O'Brien cast the deciding vote last month to rubber-stamp Gov. Rendell's $27.3 billion budget.

"Since his election, the speaker has voted extensively with the Democrats," House GOP Leader Sam Smith told the Inquirer. "Dennis wants to be in the middle, but at the end of the day you have to be either one or the other."

For more griping about O'Brien by Republicans, check out "O'Brien's speaker deal upset GOP" in today's edition of The Inquirer,

I guess news travels slow in Philadelphia. I warned Republicans months ago that O'Brien has been voting with the Democrats for years and will dance to Rendell's tune while serving as Speaker.

While many see O'Brien as an improvement over the autocratic John Perzel, never forget that O'Brien became speaker with the blessing of Gov. Rendell, which should raise suspicion about where O'Brien's priorities are. Can you say "tax and spend, tax and spend, tax and spend?"

See my previous posts, "New Speaker Has a Sorry Voting record" at or "Everything I Know About Dennis O'Brien" at to get a better idea of who Dennis O'Brien is.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ed Rendell Exposed

Did you catch Gov. Ed Rendell on the Pennsylvania Cable Network the other night?

If you missed the scintillating hour of television on a PCN call-in show, here's the abridged version of Rendell’s rambling remarks.

The highlight of the evening for me (the part where I nearly fell out of my chair) is when Gov. Rendell claimed he has run a tight fiscal ship of state. Did Rendell captain the Titanic in a previous life?

Yes, you heard it right, folks. Rendell had the nerve to claim that he has been fiscally responsible with your hard-earned tax dollars.

"Since I’ve been governor, I've tried to run a pay-as-you-go government," Rendell said as his nose grew about a foot. Pay-as-you-go? Are you kidding me?

This is the governor who signed into law the second biggest tax increase in Pennsylvania history in his first year in office. The governor who increased state spending by $6 billion over the past four years. The very same governor who has borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to fund his agenda, essentially mortgaging Pennsylvania's future. This is the same governor who plays a shell game with state funds so you never really know how much the state is taking in or spending. This is the governor who has proposed $2 billion in new or expanded taxes to balance his bloated $27.3 billion for the coming fiscal year. This is a governor who never me a tax hike he didn't like.

What else did we learn as Rendell held court? He likes to use euphemisms for tax hikes like "revenue enhancement" and "utility assessment fee," which is a new tax on electricity he wants to impose on Pennsylvania homeowners.

Rendell is still pushing his hair-brained scheme to tax big oil although he couldn't exactly explain how he would prevent the oil companies from passing the tax on to consumers in the form of higher gas prices. At one point, Rendell slipped and told the television audience that Exxon has already notified its service station owners that it would pull out of Pennsylvania if Rendell went ahead with his new oil profits tax. What would fewer gas stations do to gas prices?

Rendell also changed his tune when he had a chance to tout his "historic property tax relief for all Pennsylvanians" line from the 2006 election campaign. He told one caller that "hundreds of thousands" of senior citizens would soon get "rebate checks" of $300 to $400 in the mail. Rebate checks? That's doesn’t sound like property tax reform to me. And what happened to property tax relief for all? Last time I checked, there were 12 million people in this state. Rendell also failed to mention that the "rebate checks" come from money borrowed from the Lottery Fund and will have to be repaid once his casino windfall comes in sometime in late 2008.

A few other highlights: Rendell pretty much guaranteed that Interstate 80 will become a toll road regardless of what happens to his efforts to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike. But even if the Legislature approved the I-80 toll plan this year, it would not happen until 2009 at the earliest.

Rendell also threw down the gauntlet to the state Legislature, saying he's prepared to stay in Harrisburg the entire summer if that's what it takes to get his $2 billion in tax hikes. The Legislature typically adjourns for a 2½-month vacation on June 30 (but that's assuming it has an approved budget in the governor's hands).

Don't bet the house on the Republicans in the Legislature falling for Rendell's tricks this year.

Rendell also took some shots at the Legislature calling it "the greatest do-nothing Legislature in history." Ouch. There's going to be some hurt feelings over that remark.

And the governor canceled a planned vacation to Africa (where I'm guessing planned to meet up with Angelina Jolie and Bono for a safari).

"I'm going nowhere," Rendell said. "We might be here all summer. They (the Legislature) better be prepared to spend a lot of time here (in Harrisburg) in July and August."

Rendell also hinted he's planning to hold his breath until the Legislature approves his $2 billion in tax hikes. (OK, I made that part up, although he did say he'd veto a budget that didn't include everything he wanted.)

"As long as we have the money," Rendell said he expects the Legislature to fund all his initiatives.

"If I'm not going to succeed, I'm going to die trying," Rendell said.

No amnesty for Harry Reid's 'Undocumented Americans'

The far left open border crowd is talking like the immigration sell-out bill of 2007 is a done deal.

Did you hear the term Harry Reid, the Senate's top Democrat, used to describe the 12 million illegal aliens living in the United States? Reid called them "Undocumented Americans." What the hell is that? What kind of Orwellian doublespeak do these liberals come up with?

Undocumented Americans? What's next? Are we going to start calling prisoners, "Incarcerated Americans?" Are we going to open the jail cells and turn everyone loose? Illegal aliens are lawbrakers. Nothing more, nothing less.

We cannot reward criminals with amnesty. I'm sure Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy would love nothing more than to allow 12 million criminals to become American citizens overnight so they can sign up for the Democratic Party.

Wake up, America. Congress is attempting to sell out our nation from under us. There are no rights or privileges granted to illegals by the U.S. Constitution. Somebody should tell that to Sen. Reid and Sen. Kennedy and the rest of the amnesty crowd. We must secure our borders and deport the criminals.

Educate yourself about the immigration reform hoax. Start with the links below. And send a message to Congress that you will drain the swamp in Washington of both Democrats and Republicans who sell out this nation.

Check out these 14 Reasons to Oppose the Phony Immigration Reform Bill...

1. $11 Billion to $22 billion is spent on welfare to illegal aliens each year.
2. $2.2 Billion dollars a year is spent on food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches for illegal aliens.
3. $2.5 Billion dollars a year is spent on Medicaid for illegal aliens.
4. $12 Billion dollars a year is spent on primary and secondary school education for children here illegally and they cannot speak a word of English!
5. $17 Billion dollars a year is spent for education for the American-born children of illegal aliens, known as anchor babies.
6. $3 Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate illegal aliens.
7. 30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens.
8. $90 Billion Dollars a year is spent on illegal aliens for
Welfare & social services by the American taxpayers.
9. $200 Billion Dollars a year in suppressed American
wages are caused by the illegal aliens.
10. The illegal aliens in the United States have a crime rate that's two and a half times that of white non-illegal aliens. In particular, their children, are going to make a huge additional crime problem in the United States .
11. During the year of 2005 there were 4 to 10 MILLION illegal aliens that crossed our Southern Border also, as many as 19,500 illegal aliens from Terrorist Countries. Millions of pounds of drugs, cocaine, meth, heroine and marijuana, crossed into
the U. S. from the Southern border. Homeland Security Report:
12. The National Policy Institute, "estimated that the total cost of mass deportation would be between $206 and $230 billion or an average cost of between $41 and $46 billion annually over a five year period."
13. In 2006 illegal aliens sent home $45 BILLION in remittances back to their countries of origin.
14. "The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration: Nearly One Million Sex Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants In The United States"
So using the LOWEST estimates, the annual cost OF ILLEGAL ALIENS is $338.3 BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR! So if deporting them costs between $206 and $230 BILLION DOLLARS, Hell get rid of em', We'll be ahead after the first year!!!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The liberal governor who cried wolf

With apologies to my fellow Greek scribe, Aesop, I'd like to tell you a story about the liberal governor who cried wolf about property tax cuts.

Any similarities with the popular children's fable, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," are purely intentional.

Everyone is familiar with the original story. A shepherd-boy who watched a flock of sheep near a village brought out the villagers three or four times by crying out, "Wolf! Wolf!" and when his neighbors came to help him, laughed at them for their pains. The Wolf, however, did truly come at last. The shepherd-boy, now really alarmed, shouted in an agony of terror: "Pray, do come and help me; the Wolf is killing the sheep!" But no one paid any heed to his cries, nor rendered any assistance. The Wolf, having no cause of fear, at his leisure destroyed the whole flock. (Reprinted from

The focus of our story is a grizzled politician who has spent his entire life spending other people's money in a land called Pennsylvania. He was elected to the highest post of the land by promising to cut property taxes.

In 2003, Gov. Ed Rendell promised to cut property taxes if the Legislature would approve a higher state income tax. Taxes went up, but the promised property tax relief never materialized. "Wolf! Wolf!"

In 2004, Gov. Ed Rendell promised to cut property taxes if the Legislature would approve gambling in Pennsylvania. The Legislature authorized 61,000 slot machines. The promised property tax relief never materialized. "Wolf! Wolf!"

In 2005, Gov. Ed Rendell promised to cut property taxes if the Legislature would approved Act 72. The Legislature approved it. Eight of 10 school districts said no thanks. The promised property tax relief never materialized. "Wolf! Wolf!"

In 2006, Gov. Ed Rendell promised to cut property taxes if the Legislature would approve Act 1. The Legislature approved it. Voters in 99 percent of the state's school districts rejected the tax shift. The promised property tax relief never materialized. "Wolf! Wolf!"

In 2007, Gov. Ed Rendell promises to cut property taxes if the Legislature approves a 1 percentage point increase in the state sales tax. First he said most of the additional revenue will go to cover state spending, but now he says all of the money will go back to taxpayers in the form of property tax relief. More promises.

The liberal governor cried wolf four times already. Why would anyone believe him when he promises to cut property taxes if the Legislature approves his sales tax initiative?

The moral of the story?


21,000 visitors and counting

Another milestone. I've recorded 21,000 visitors to this blog in the past seven months. Thanks for making this site a regular stop on your journey through the information superhighway -- Tony Phyrillas

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Memo tips off Democrats' budget strategy: Wear down GOP, force tax hikes

We're 16 days away from the start of a new fiscal year for Pennsylvania, but Gov. Ed Rendell and the Legislature can't seem to find the time to get in the same room to negotiate a budget deal.

Rendell is still pushing his $27.3 billion spending plan, which will require $2 billion in new or expanded taxes to balance.

House Democrats are also willing to spend the $27.3 billion, but say they can balance the budget without a tax increase. Anyway, the budget is irrelevant to the Democrats. What they really want to accomplish this year is secure billions of dollars to subsidize mass transit by privatizing the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

House Republicans are upset with the new Democratic majority, which they claim is dragging out the budget process to gain the upper hand. Senate Republicans have already shaved $330 million from Rendell's budget and want to cut more. Senate GOP leaders say they will not support a tax increase. Nobody cares what Senate Democrats have to say.

Republican lawmakers are worried that the state budget won't pass on time for the fifth year in a row. House GOP Chairman Sam Smith summed up the Rendell/Democratic Party strategy this way:

"House Democrats have clearly taken a strategy to tie up the negotiations to try to stall," Smith said Wednesday. "I think their whole game is the typical Rendell doctrine of delay, create a crisis, and then we'll have to have a tax increase to fix the crisis. I think it is beyond brinksmanship."

The most interesting development this week is a memo House Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans sent to his fellow Democrats, laying out the strategy the Rendell and Evans have adopted to force the Legislature into more spending increases and higher taxes.

Here's the full text of the Evans' memo (with editorial comments added by me in red in an effort to translate the Democratic doublespeak):

Message from the Chair
June 12, 2007
Re: Beyond the budget hoopla

Dear Colleague:

As of today, we have 2½ weeks before the end of the fiscal year. I am fully aware there is much gossip and speculation about the status of budget negotiations. For our freshman and newer members, please understand that at this time of year, such talk is part of the Harrisburg parlor game. It is a game that is played with speculation, innuendo and assumptions but typically not facts. (TRANSLATION: YOU REFORM-MINDED FRESHMEN NEED TO CHILL OUT AND ALLOW US PROFESSIONAL POLITICIANS TO PLAY THE GAME. AFTER ALL, WE'VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR 30 YEARS. DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE PROMISES YOU MADE TO THE FOLKS BACK HOME ABOUT PROPERTY TAX RELIEF AND ENDING THE CULTURE OF CORRUPTION IN HARRISBURG. JUST LET UNCLE DWIGHT AND UNCLE EDDY DO THEIR THING. SO WHAT IF SOME OF YOU LOSE IN 2008. ED AND I DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THOSE PESKY VOTERS.)

I have been open and forthright about the process in my individual discussions with you and when talking to the caucus as a whole. I am fully aware that not every member is comfortable with every idea on our budget plate. (WHAT'S ON THE DEMOCRATS' MENU? RAISING STATE SPENDING BY 7 PERCENT?? VOTING FOR TAX HIKES WHEN THE VOTERS SENT YOU HERE TO CUT PROPERTY TAXES??) To be frank, there are some ideas I support more fully than others.

But I want to be very clear: My job as Appropriations Chairman is to guide this process for the Democratic Caucus. (SPEND LIKE THERE'S NO TOMORROW. IT'S NOT LIKE THIS IS OUR MONEY. AS LONG AS THOSE SAPS KEEP RE-ELECTING US, WE'LL KEEP SPENDING THEIR MONEY). My job is to fight for every dollar I can to support the programs we as Democrats believe help build strong communities:


* Investments in economic development; (MORE CORPORATE WELFARE)






Prior to Memorial Day, our Caucus passed House Bill 1286 which set our spending priorities with regard to the General Fund Budget. (INCREASE STATE SPENDING TO HISTORIC LEVELS EVEN THOUGH THE STATE'S POPULATION IS STAGNANT AND PENNSYLVANIA RANKS NEAR THE BOTTOM IN EVERY RANKING OF ECONOMIC VITALITY.) By doing so, we sent a clear signal to the state Senate (THOSE MEAN REPUBLICANS) that we will start negotiations from that position. Any proposal in which the starting point is less than that will TAKE THE STATE BACKWARDS. (A TAX CUT IS A STEP BACKWARDS IN DWIGHT EVANS' WORLD. KEEPING STATE SPENDING AT THE RATE OF INFLATION IS A STEP BACKWARDS IN DWIGHT EVANS' WORLD. PASSING A BUDGET ON TIME IS A STEP BACKWARDS IN EVANS' WORLD.)

As we engage in budget negotiations, we must look to the future, not to the past. As Democrats it is our responsibility to determine how this state will look, not just a year or two from now, but 20 years from now. (BY LEASING THE PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE TO A PRIVATE COMPANY, DEMOCRATS CAN FIND BILLIONS OF ADDITIONAL DOLLARS TO SPEND ON SUBSIDIZING MASS TRANSIT.)

I cannot in good conscience support draconian proposals that would slash nearly $500 million dollars from the general fund. (CUTTING $500 MILLION IN SPENDING FROM THE $60 BILLION PENNSYLVANIA SPENDS EVERY YEAR IS DRACONIAN? SOUNDS LIKE DWIGHT EVANS HAS BEEN HANGING AROUND PARIS HILTON TOO LONG.) Doing so would be more than irresponsible: it would simply shift the budget problems we have to next year or the year after. And in doing so, it would leave hundreds of thousands of our youngest citizens, our most vulnerable citizens and our senior citizens without the programs they deserve. (LET ME GET THIS RIGHT. LIVING WITHIN OUR MEANS AS A STATE IS UNACCEPTABLE? NOBODY IS CUTTING PROGRAMS FOR SENIORS. AND IF DWIGHT EVANS WOULD TALK TO SENIORS, HE'D HEAR THAT THEY, MORE THAN ANYONE, WANT THE ELIMINATION OF PROPERTY TAXES.)

To that end, I also have decided to stand firm in my position that this budget will NOT be done unless we find a solution that provides a steady stream of funding for our transit systems and for repairing our roads and bridges. (SOUNDS LIKE THE MAN PULLING DWIGHT EVANS' STRINGS -- EDWARD G. RENDELL -- IS WILLING TO HOLD OUT UNTIL HE GETS TO TURN OVER THE PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE TO ONE OF HIS CORPORATE BENEFACTORS.) I believe that if we procrastinate, we will not resolve the problem in the Fall, nor will we tackle it in 2008. And inaction on our part will only compound the problem.

I understand that the budget process can be excruciating at times. But keep in mind that Governor Rendell was elected with overwhelming public support. (AND THE MAJORITY OF PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENTS WANT THE ELIMINATION OF PROPERTY TAXES, SO WHAT'S YOUR POINT? RENDELL IS A FUN GUY? WHERE IS THE TAX RELIEF RENDELL AND HIS DEMOCRAT SYCOPHANTS PROMISED IN 2003 and 2004 and 2005 and 2006 and 2007?) Our polling data and anecdotal evidence both suggest that the public will support bold ideas to move this state forward. And our mandate from the voters is to make responsible choices that will strengthen our Commonwealth. (OBVIOUSLY, EVANS NEEDS TO HIRE A NEW POLLSTER. THE PEOPLE OF PENNSYLVANIA SPOKE LOUD AND CLEAR AT THE ONLY POLL THE MATTERS -- THE BALLOT BOX -- WHEN VOTERS IN 99 PERCENT OF STATE'S SCHOOL DISTRICTS REJECTED RENDELL'S ACT 1 TAX SHIFT).

I will talk more about the budget process during caucus in the coming days. In the meantime, I urge you to remain faithful to the ideals of our party; committed to the caucus; and confident that we will negotiate a budget which shows Democrats understand what it means to invest in people and in Pennsylvania's future.

Rep. Dwight Evans, Chairman
House Committee on Appropriations