Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Rendell, Legislature stagger into 2006

There’s a new poll out on the job our distinguished governor and esteemed members of the state legislature are doing. It can be summed up in a few words: Dead Men (and Women) Walking.

How mad are Pennsylvania voters at Rendell and the other Harrisburg Hogs? The legislators are even less popular with constituents today than they were before they repealed the outrageous pay raise they gave themselves in July.

The poll by Strategic Vision was taken before Christmas, which means voters expressed their distaste for Rendell and the larcenous legislators before the Harrisburg Hogs packed it in for their holiday vacation having failed to agree on property-tax relief during the 11-week special session Rendell called back in September.

Not only did the legislature fail for the 30th consecutive year to deliver property-tax relief, but a package of tax breaks to help businesses, coupled with a slight reduction in the personal income tax, was vetoed by Gov. Rendell right before Christmas. Ebenezer Scrooge has nothing on Ed Rendell when it comes to sending a Bah, Humbug! to beleaguered Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Here’s a brief recap of Rendell’s first three years in office. Rendell signed a $1 billion increase in the state income tax in his first year. Rendell pushed through slot gambling in his second year (which is a form of regressive taxation because senior citizens who can least afford to lose money will be the ones turning over their quarters to the one-armed bandits when Rendell’s slot parlors open in 2007.)

And let’s not forget the $52 occupational privilege tax that Rendell imposed on just about every worker in the state. It’s called something like an emergency services tax, but it’s just another way for Rendell to lift $52 from your paycheck for the privilege of having a job in one of the most heavily taxed states in the union.

The Strategic Vision poll, based on telephone interviews conducted between Dec. 16-18 of 1,200 likely voters in Pennsylvania, ages 18 and up, shows that voters have long memories when it comes to the pay-jackers. The numbers do not bode well for Rendell, the 203 members of the House and half of the 50 state Senate members, all of whom face reelection in 2006.

Saying I’m sorry apparently isn’t good enough for furious voters, who are tired of empty promises by Rendell and the legislators.

Rendell’s failure to keep his campaign promise of tax relief for the third year in a row and the legislature’s unwillingness to reform Pennsylvania’s onerous property taxes appear to be the ingredients for a perfect storm that will sweep aside some of the biggest political names in the state in 2006.

Even Teflon Ed Rendell is losing his luster with voters. Less than half of the voters sampled -- 45 percent -- approve of Rendell’s job performance, while 37 percent disapprove and 18 percent are undecided.

The Strategic Vision poll has the GOP field down to a two-horse race, with NFL Hall-of-Famer Lynn Swann and former Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton way ahead of the other two candidates, Jeff Piccola and Jim Panyard. Strategic Vision asked voters "If the Republican primary were today, whom would you vote for?" This is how Republican voters responded: Lynn Swann, 39 percent; Bill Scranton, 36 percent; Jeff Piccola, 15 percent and Jim Panyard, 5 percent.

More troubling for Rendell was head-to-head matchups with the two leading GOP candidates.

If the election for governor was held today, and the choice was between Rendell and Swann, Rendell finished with 45 percent of the vote, followed closely by Swann at 41 percent. Not bad for a former football player who hasn’t formally announcedthat he’s running for governor. It appears Swann could clean Rendell’s clock in western and central Pennsylvania, leaving Philadelphia and its suburbs for Rendell’s last stand.

Scranton also matches up well against Rendell. If the election for governor was held today, and the choice was between Rendell and Scranton, here’s how the numbers shake out: Rendell 45 percent to Scranton’s 42 percent.

Rendell was leading Swann and Scranton by double digits just a couple of months ago.

The most telling numbers involve the hapless state legislature. Asked if they approve or disapprove of the Pennsylvania legislature’s job performance, only 18 percent of voters said they approve. A whopping 64 percent disapprove and another 18 percent are undecided. Hint to incumbent state legislators: When only two out of 10 voters think you’re doing a good job, you’d better start checking the help wanted ads.

The full poll results are posted on the firm’s Web site,

Just to show that Pennsylvania voters blameRepublicans and Democrats equally for the sad state of affairs in the commonwealth, the final question in the poll was, "Do you think Pennsylvania is headed in the right direction or wrong direction?" Only 32 percent said Pennsylvania is headed in the right direction, while 55 percent said the state is headed in the wrong direction and 13 percent were undecided.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

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