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Sunday, February 06, 2005

Part-time job at $155,000 a year sounds nice

Pennsylvania, do you know where your governor is? It’s Super Bowl Sunday and the Philadelphia Eagles are in it, so odds are good that Gov. Ed Rendell is in Jacksonville, Fla.

When Pennsylvanians elected Rendell governor in 2002, they probably didn’t realize they were also getting John Madden at the same time. Rendell likes to moonlight as a sportscaster during football season. Or more realistically, he moonlights as governor while the Eagles play.

Throughout the preseason last summer, the regular schedule and the two home playoff games won by the Eagles, Rendell has been in the broadcast booth at Comcast's SportsNet.

It must be great to live out your fantasy — and still collect a paycheck for your "other" job? There’s no denying Rendell is a big Eagles fan. He’s been a season ticketholder for more than 20 years. And he does know the game. Coach Andy Reid better deliver tonight. Watching Rendell on SportsNet after Eagles games, I get the feeling the governor is one step from issuing an executive order appointing himself coach of the Eagles for life.

You have to wonder if there’s not enough for Rendell to do in his regular job of running the state. After all, that is why we pay him $155,572 a year. But don’t bother Rendell on a Sunday. He’s not the governor when the Eagles play at home. Add Monday nights to the list of days Rendell hangs out the "Do Not Disturb" sign if the Eagles play on Monday Night Football. And the NFL does like to throw in an occasional Thursday night and Saturday night game.

Does the football analyst gig interfere with his day job? Last week Rendell informed state legislators that he is delaying his annual budget message to accommodate his trip to Jacksonville.

The delivery of the budget was to take place Feb. 8, but if the Eagles win tonight’s game, there’s going to be a parade in Philadelphia Tuesday and given a choice of addressing the state Legislature in Harrisburg or riding down Broad Street in a limo, it’s a no-brainer. The gov would rather be in Philadelphia.

Rendell obviously thinks he can do both jobs. He is so pleased with his job performance that he gave himself a 7.7 percent pay raise in January, bringing his salary up from $144,416 to $155,572, making him one of the highest paid governors in the nation. That’s what’s so great about being governor. You can give yourself pay raises and leave work anytime you want to watch your favorite football team play.

I don’t know if Rendell gets paid for the Comcast gig. I suspect that he doesn’t because it would be too obvious that he would be influenced by the cable TV giant. If Rendell does get paid, he probably gives it to charity.

I do know that Rendell recently gave Comcast permission to tape a commercial in the governor’s mansion at no charge. Rendell fidgeted during a recent press conference when a reporter asked about the arrangement with Comcast to use government space for free. Rendell said he didn’t charge Comcast for use of public facilities because the governor allows charitable groups to use the space as well. If he billed Comcast, he would have to charge the charities for use of the facility as well, the governor argued.

I’m not buying that answer. You can have a policy of allowing non-profit organizations to use government facilities, but you can still charge a fee for profit-making firms. If you’re not sure whether Comcast is a profit-making entity, check you latest cable bill. Since Comcast purchased my local cable company a few years ago, adding to its monopoly in southeastern Pennsylvania, my cable rates have increased 10 times the rate of inflation.

I hope the Eagles win the Super Bowl and the governor gets to ride in his victory parade. But I still have a problem with a man who gets paid $155,000 a year, not to mention free housing and free transportation, taking so much time off to follow the Eagles around like a groupie. Thank God Rendell isn’t a big fan of the Phillies. They play 162 games.

Rendell appears too distracted to do his job as governor. The only thing he’s done in his first two years was raise income taxes by $1 billion, sneak a bunch of other tax increase on workers (the latest being the $52 deduction from our paychecks) and pull one of the greatest con jobs in history by pretending that slot machines will bring property tax relief.

More bad news. Fast Eddie already announced plans to seek reelection in 2006.

We’ve got serious problems in this state and we need a governor who takes his job more seriously.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com

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