Dec 31, 2010


I just want to wish my PennPatriot Blog contributors and all the visitors who check out this website on a regular basis Happy New Year. This New Year may God bless you and watch over you, and my he always guide our hearts in the coming year. I wish all of you good health and prosperity in 2011.

Randy Potter
PennPatriot Blog

Specter's Legacy: A Work In Progress

Guest Column by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L. Young 

At the end he was ridiculed by some, disliked by many, and ignored by most. But at his prime and in his time, he was among the most powerful politicians in America, widely respected, frequently feared, and always a presence. His term in the Senate--some 30 years--encompassed six presidents and some of the most remarkable times in American history.

Arlen Specter was a player in much of it--from his earlier controversial service on the Warren Commission in the 1960’s to his precedent-setting party switch in 2009. As much as any modern politician, Specter has left his mark on the big issues of his time.

He has also been durable--on the ballot an astonishing 26 elections during his career. He is the longest serving U.S. Senator in Pennsylvania history. Indeed, he may be the longest-lived politician in state history going back almost a half century.

All of this is now firmly inscribed in the history books guaranteeing that Specter will be remembered for a long time. But how will he be remembered? What will be the Specter legacy?

Specter himself has publicly dashed talk of his legacy asserting it “too think about legacy.” Perhaps so but it seems clear there are six major themes running through Specter’s career that will come to define him.
  • Emphasis on Judicial Politics - Almost certainly Specter’s role in judicial politics will loom large upon his exit from public life. Specter’s often controversial performance in Supreme Court nominations is now the stuff of legend. He has participated in the confirmation of fourteen justices. His influence in two of them--Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas--was dispositive: in the case of Bork leading the charge to defeat him while in Thomas’s case to confirm him. Less well known has been Specter’s enormous influence in the lower federal judiciary. During his Senate tenure, he has virtually dominated the selection of 99 federal trial judges as well as 26 appellate judges. Specter’s life-long interest in the judiciary has marked every phase of his public life.
  • Consistent Centrism - Throughout his career, Specter exhibited centrist leanings. Neither really conservative nor really liberal, he consistently occupied the middle of the political spectrum. Until his primary defeat earlier this year, he was perhaps the most accomplished practitioner of moderate politics on the national stage today. Inevitably, the increasing polarization of American political life made Specter the proverbial man in the middle, a politician without a political home in either party, and a moderate in an increasingly immoderate world. 
  • Pragmatic Idealism - Specter mixed pragmatism with idealism in a way that often mystified his friends while confounding his enemies. Specter the pragmatist was reflexively responsive to the needs of local public officials of both parties, bringing home a record level of congressional pork to the state. He also spent an enormous amount of time staying in touch with his constituents. Most pragmatic of all, he switched parties when it became clear he could not win another Republican nomination. But his idealism often got him in trouble, too. Leading the charge against Bork’s Supreme Court nomination helped make him anathema in the GOP; yet, Specter deemed it worth doing. And no better example of idealism trumping pragmatism was Specter’s crucial vote for the Obama stimulus package. Arguably, Specter the pragmatist lost his office for that vote.
  • Political Eccentrism - Specter cultivated an image as a supremely cerebral politician, but he had his moments. Two of them are permanently embedded in national memory. The first of these grew out of Specter’s work on the Warren Commission when he loudly and persistently propounded his famous “single bullet” theory. More recently, he cemented his reputation for quirkiness during the Clinton impeachment trial when he cited Scottish law to vote “not proved.” Thereby confounding both sides and sending legal scholars scurrying to esoteric legal references to figure out what Specter meant.
  • Respected But Not Liked - Hard working and smart are two adjectives often used to describe Specter. No one ever doubted his political aptitude. But he also could be testy, tactless, and impatient. He suffered fools badly and drove his staff so hard the Washington Monthly routinely voted him one of the worst bosses in the Congress. Specter was widely respected, but not necessarily loved. Specter himself never seemed to care. Warm and cuddly are not words that leap to the tongue describing him. A sample of the Specter treatment will suffice. When asked at a recent editorial board meeting if Obama was vulnerable in 2012, Specter replied: "Republicans would have to find somebody sensible to run (and)…there is nobody sensible on the scene and if there were, the Republicans wouldn't nominate him.” 
  • A Workhorse & A Show Horse - The Senate, someone once quipped, is made up of “work horses” and “show horses.” Specter was both. He loved the limelight, never shrunk from publicity, and rarely missed a chance to make a headline. But he was also one of the hardest working senators. Well known is the work he did on the Patriot Act, FISA, numerous constitutional issues, the senate filibuster rule, and stem cell research. Less well known is his energetic record on immigration and foreign affairs. Specter’s frequent visits and expertise on the Middle East has made him one of the nation’s most knowledgeable authorities on the region. 
Now an octogenarian, twice a cancer survivor, and a veteran of open heart surgery, Specter leaves the Senate but maybe not political life. He talks of a book underway, possibly some media work, and a stint in the classroom. He has said he has no interest in a cabinet appointment. But he has left the door open for a diplomatic post. Might he try a political comeback, too? At 80, with few electoral opportunities, that seems unlikely. But then, very few things in Specter’s long career have seemed likely.

Copyright © 2010 Terry Madonna and Michael Young. Politically Uncorrected™ is published twice monthly, and previous columns can be viewed at

Dec 30, 2010

Pennsylvanians deserve choices at liquor stores

Guest Column by Katrina Currie

As many Pennsylvanians headed to their state liquor stores to pick up holiday cheer, there were three things they weren’t celebrating: Higher costs, less selection and lower quality service in the bloated bureaucracy of Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor monopoly.

But the Grinch who stole personal and economic freedom might not be coming to town much longer. State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai is pushing legislation to license private companies to sell wine and spirits — just as most other states have done.

By ending the state’s monopoly, Pennsylvania could bring in nearly $2 billion in a one-time influx of funds and hundreds of millions annually — on top of receiving better services, lower prices and greater selection. A recent Quinnipiac University poll shows that 66 percent of Pennsylvanians believe this is the right direction for the state.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is the exclusive wholesaler and retailer of wine and spirits in the commonwealth. This government monopoly forces Pennsylvanians to pay up to 50 percent more for liquor than in other states — many of which offer a variety of wines not available in the commonwealth, and allow wholesalers to deliver the spirits right to your door.

Instead of giving customers competition and real selection, the PLCB rolled out impractical wine kiosks and “wine boutiques,” in order to appear as a customer-friendly monopoly. This year, they ramped up promotional efforts, rolling out a new consumer website, running promotional ads and soliciting a consulting bid with universities to revamp the state’s selling model to bring in more customers.

Unfortunately, at the same time, the PLCB is charged with being the state’s alcohol watchdog. The clear conflict of interest between controlling sales and being the salesman would be eliminated if the state divested from the alcohol business.

While only three states, including Pennsylvania, still have a government monopoly on the sale of wine and liquor at the retail and wholesale level, the notion still faces strong opposition. However, studies and real-world experience with liquor reforms in other states demonstrate the main criticisms are unfounded.

The main concern of critics is that privatization will increase underage drinking, binge drinking and DUI fatalities. This is simply not the case.

A study by John Pulito and Dr. Antony Davies of Duquesne University found absolutely no link between these social behaviors and the level of state control. Similarly, states moving from government-run liquor stores to licensing of private retailers saw little change in these areas.

Moreover, in contrast to opponents’ claims, private employees have just as much incentive to refuse alcohol to minors as public employees, as they both face third-degree misdemeanor charges, fines and possible imprisonment. Likewise, private retailers would risk losing their licenses if they violated any alcohol laws.

 A second myth used by defenders of the current system is the state will lose revenue. Wine and liquor sales generate revenue through two sources: Liquor taxes (approximately $376 million annually) and state store’s “profits” (approximately $90 million annually).

Under Rep. Turzai’s proposal, the state would auction off inventories of state stores, as well as 750 retail stores licenses and 100 wholesale distribution licenses to private companies, estimated to bring in almost $2 billion. With another $500 million expected annually by requiring biennial license renewal fees, state alcohol taxes and in new taxes not paid by government entities, such as corporate income taxes and property taxes, plus an end to border bleed, this proposal would likely generate more state revenue than is produced by the current system.

Critics also decry private sector “greed” as a reason to retain a state monopoly. Yet, self-interest is just as prevalent in government. Recently, more than 20 PLCB employees, including managers, were fired for widespread “financial irregularities.” The PLCB has been tainted with cronyism. Privatization would reduce abuse political patronage and unnecessary government spending.

Licensing private businesses to sell wine and spirits cuts down on political corruption and will likely lower wine and spirit prices while improving services for customers. Moreover it presents a significant opportunity to balance the state budget, while returning the PLCB to its role of promoting real public safety.

If Pennsylvania consumers and voters get their holiday wish, we soon may be celebrating the benefits of a true market.

Katrina Currie is a research associate for the Commonwealth Foundation, an independent, nonprofit public policy education and research institute located in Harrisburg.

Dec 28, 2010

Walking Around Money.

Time for the pork-laden practice to end
Guest Column By Lowman S. Henry

The skyrocketing cost of government was a major factor in the GOP's sweeping victories in congressional elections earlier this month. Much attention was focused on earmarks, the practice of legislators inserting favored projects into the budget without going through the normal appropriations process.

In reaction to the public outcry against earmarks, the U.S. Senate Republican Conference voted to ban the procedure. The vote is viewed as a victory for TEA party fiscal conservatism as well as a personal victory for Senator Jim DeMint who lead the anti-earmark charge and for the incoming class of conservatives, including Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, who spoke out against earmarks.

National Republicans have heard the voters on pork barrel spending, but will their counterparts at the state level in Penn's Woods follow in their footsteps? Incoming Governor Tom Corbett campaigned against Walking Around Money or WAMS, which are the state-level version of earmarks. Candidate Corbett attacked WAMS as having "little to no accountability and oversight" and said spending on them has "spiraled out of control."

Governor Corbett will take office with his party in control of both houses of the General Assembly, and they hold historically large majorities. With opposition to WAMS a core part of many legislators' campaigns the GOP has no excuse when it comes to banning the practice.

Plus, the fact that WAMS still exist is a flagrant violation of the state constitution. A 1995 state Supreme Court ruling verified that the process is unconstitutional. But, defiant legislators simply renamed WAMS "legislative initiative grants" and continued the practice under the new moniker. That, however, doesn't make them any more constitutional. Tim Potts, founder and president of Democracy Rising PA explains: "They're unconstitutional because once the legislature appropriates money to an executive agency the legislature may not directly or indirectly determine what happens to those funds. That of course is the WAM process."

The process and even the amount of money spent by state lawmakers on WAMS is cloaked in secrecy. Estimates of how much is spent on WAMS range from $65.5 million reported by the Pennsylvania Independent web site, to the over $100 million per year claimed by State Representative Curt Schroder, an earmark opponent.

There is little bipartisan cooperation in Harrisburg, but feasting on pork has united Republicans and Democrats. According to the Associated Press, in recent years Senate Democrats have submitted $59 million in WAM requests and House Democrats $55 million. During the same time frame Senate Republicans asked for $50 million in pork barrel spending while House Republicans requested $45 million in funding.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that when it comes to allocating WAMS not all house and senate districts are created equal. Legislative leaders feast on bacon, while backbenchers settle for table scraps. The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that the district represented by former House Speaker Bill DeWeese was number one in receiving WAM grants at $3 million per year for an average of $82.00 per person. The district of current speaker Keith McCall came in second at $50.00 per capita.

Not only are WAMS a perversion of the spending process, they also pollute the legislative process. Leaders use WAM grants to essentially blackmail members into voting the way they want on key legislation. Lawmakers who toe the leadership line are rewarded with WAM grants for their districts, while those who are independent - who represent their constituents rather than leadership - often fail to get their requests approved.

The degree to which WAMs are a sacred cow was evident in this year's budget process. With the state facing a massive budget deficit the Department of Community and Economic Development, which administers Legislative Initiative Grants, was given a 23% budget increase for an additional $52 million in spending.

For both symbolic and substantive reasons the incoming Republican majority must follow Governor-elect Corbett's lead, comply with the state constitution and finally put an end to WAMS. It is a crucial first step in the long road toward restoring integrity to and public confidence in Pennsylvania's badly tarnished legislature.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His email address is

Dec 24, 2010

Merry Christmas! Spread The Good News!

Soon we all will be celebrated the birth of our savior Jesus Christ, who was born in a manger a long time ago. We celebrate his birth on Christmas sometimes as if it was simply tradition. However, the Bible says that on the night of his birth the universe came alive and rejoiced.

A strange star appeared in the sky over Bethlehem that night and legend says it was the brightest star anyone has ever seen. Angels even descended upon shepherds who were watching over their flocks and told them to rejoice for our savior was born this day. A group of angels shouted out from the hills surrounding Bethlehem, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

What were the angels celebrating that night? Why were they so happy for mankind on earth and telling everyone to Rejoice! Rejoice!? I say that the angels were celebrating what all of us seem to celebrate on Christmas, the birth of a new spirit of love and kindness for our fellow man that collectively would conquer the evils of this earth. That my friend is the true meaning of Christmas Spirit.

So this Christmas I say to my family and friends Rejoice! Rejoice! For a savior has been born this day that will spread God's message of love and peace. May this Christmas be filled with all the love and joy you can stand. May God be with and bless you and shine his Grace down upon you.

And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid ... And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord." "And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men."

Dec 22, 2010

From the Management: PennPatriot Blog HD!

Dear PennPatriot Blog contributors and visitors,

PennPatriot Blog HD is now officially online and after a year and a half in retirement I have decided once again to start blogging on a consistant basis. The website has some cool new new features so enjoy PA news links and commentary. Plus I've added all the social networking features you need to share our links on facebook and twitter. I have also finally registered a domain name and the website url is now . So make sure you change your favorites, bookmarks and update your website links!

Today PennPatriot Blog officially turns five years old. I started this blog five years ago for the same reason Greg Palmer of the old school Keystone Politics started his website. Like Greg, I was tired of the the lack of or cookie cutter state media coverage of state politics. You know what I mean and you can probably can still remember articles that were actually press releases that only changed a few lines here and there and then was published. My goal has always been to raise political awareness and give people a place to find information on the issues that are impacting our state and our lives. I think for the past five years I have kept true to this blog's mission.

Starting this blog has been a great adventure. I have personally met and chated wtih some great state media personalities like Brad Bumsted of the Tribune-Review, Salena Zito, Tony Phyrillas, John Micek of the Alltenown Morning Call, John Bear of the Philadelphia Daily News. During the midnight pay raise scandal I was interviewed by the Patriot-News several times. I was a guest on National Public Radio with Gar Joseph of the Philadelphia Daily News and Lowman Henry of the Lincoln Institute. I've gotten to interview candidates for Governor and former Senator Rick Santorum. Legend has it that some of my posts have actually influenced the direction of the entire state. Just ask Representative Deweese who decided that being Majority Leader in the state house would be better than losing the Speaker pst to the once powerful Rep. Perzel from Philadelphia. I've seen tons of corruption and scandal from the pay raise to the now infamous bonus scandal. But perhaps the greatest thing about blogging has been all the people I have met that I would have never heard of if I never started blogging.

Thanks for all the support over the past five years.

Randy Potter
PennPatriot Blog

Dec 20, 2010

Stop The DRPA “Takers”, And You Stop The Toll Hike

Throughout history, there have always been makers and takers.
Makers create things: jobs, products and wealth.  Takers produce nothing. Instead, they leech off the makers. 
And the biggest taker of all is government.
Oppressive, “taking” governments hold center stage in most foreign countries, where taxpayer rights and the rule of law are cocktail party jokes. But increasingly, the takers are also making their mark in America, squeezing the economic lifeblood out of business and zapping citizens’ creativity and hope.
Usually, the take comes in increments, with public officials saying it’s our duty to accept such small sacrifices. But once the takers set their hooks, they never let go. Consider:
-The tax we pay on every bottle of Pennsylvania liquor to rebuild Johnstown from the flood is “just” 18 cents per dollar.  Granted, reconstructing the mega-metropolis of Johnstown must have been a Herculean task, but the flood was…. in 1936.
-The recent city sales tax hike for Philadelphia is “only” a penny, and the city’s 10 percent property tax increase is “temporary.”  The truth: residents are leaving the city to make purchases because of the “small,” 100 percent hike; and no tax is ever temporary.
-And of course, we have the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) who, after mismanaging our toll dollars (READ: spending half-a-BILLION dollars on economic development projects having nothing to do with the bridges), now finds it fitting to raise tolls --- again --- on its four bridges and the PATCO train line. But hey, it’s just a dollar!  Take one for the team, we’re told.
So what’s a toll-payer to do?  Answer: Relax, you’ve already done it.  You elected Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett as Pennsylvania’s new Governor, and he gets to wipe the Rendell-slate clean and appoint a new DRPA Chairman and Board of Commissioners for Pennsylvania.
And make no mistake, with the no-nonsense law-and-order bookends of Corbett and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie now running the Authority, it’s a whole new ballgame, and the toll hike can, and should, be stopped before it goes into effect on July 1.
All it takes is political will.
It is not enough to play the blame-game with Port Authority executives and former Governors Rendell and Corzine, all of whom presided over the unmitigated disaster that now defines the DRPA.
While it is important to remember how the Authority got us into this mess, and to hold accountable those who disregarded the toll-paying public (and possibly the law), only immediate, concrete solutions can halt the back-breaking hikes, and prevent future increases that the public simply can’t afford, and shouldn’t have to pay. 
To put into perspective how truly bad things have become, just look at the driving force behind the toll increase: Wall Street bondholders.  That’s right.  Those financiers are so concerned about their investment that they have been relentlessly pushing the Board to put the screws to commuters and jack up the rates.
The mind-blowing lesson from this past week’s Board meeting is that the DRPA isn't being run for the public anymore (not that it ever was). Instead, its reckless spending now has them dancing to Wall Street's tune.  The interest of bondholders trump the public because of the debt carried for economic development projects that A) don't help the economy, and B) develop only animosity for the DRPA.  With absolutely no revenue return to the DRPA, the projects were, and still are, a black hole of political patronage, funded by the public for the sole benefit of the DRPA insiders.
However, there is a silver lining to this mess.  For the first time, the public and honorable politicians are starting to look at how the DRPA can be dismantled.  Leasing it to a private entity, selling PATCO, and dissolving the governing compact are all options --- once unthinkable --- now on the table. 
Here are several actions that would allow to the DRPA to regain a solid financial footing while not raising the toll, and, most important, start down the long road of earning back the public’s trust:
1)      Gov. Christie should veto the Board’s actions, which approved $200 million in more spending for PATCO.  Whether that money must be spent is irrelevant; common sense dictates that the DRPA should wait 30 more days until Corbett and his appointees come to power and have their say.  This is exactly what the Board did last December when it rushed to pass patronage projects ahead of Christie’s inauguration (and his veto power).
2)      Gut the DRPA, starting at the top.  Fire all high-level executives, who would have been canned long ago had they worked in the private sector.  Their lack of even basic performance reminds us of the speech delivered to shareholders by Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, “…Teldar Paper has 33 different vice presidents, each earning over 200 thousand dollars a year. Now, I have spent the last two months analyzing what all these guys do, and I still can't figure it out…. in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated.”  The DRPA’s top brass are the toll-payers’ Teldar executives.
3)      Slash employees, salaries and benefits. Why the need for 900 employees --- with lavish salaries and benefits --- to operate four bridges and a short rail line is still a mystery.  And to add insult to injury, many executives make more than the governors of both states.  For example, CEO John Matheussen betters them by $50,000 per year, and, up until recently, had a $17,000/year car allowance.  It is unfortunate when people get laid off, but many positions should never have been created in the first place.  The DRPA is a revolving jobs program for the politically connected, subsidized by hapless commuters, and that must end.
4)      Freeze all economic development money, period.  That goes for dollars still in the pot and monies allocated but unspent.  Rendell’s lack of legal knowledge in this area notwithstanding, the DRPA is not contractually obligated to spend the money already awarded for these projects.  And to those recipients who yell that they want “their” money, the toll-payers have news for them: it’s not “their” money, and they possess no God-given right to pig-out at the public trough.
5)      Perform a bend-over, proctologist-like forensic audit, top to bottom (no pun intended) of absolutely everything.  Here’s the key: it cannot be performed by the Pennsylvania Auditor General since he sits on the Board, and, no disrespect to Gov. Christie, but the New Jersey Comptroller is a political appointee.  The only way this type of audit bears any fruit is to have an outside firm --- way, way outside, with no political ties whatsoever --- come in and turn over every stone. Heck, maybe they’ll even find more interesting tidbits to pass along to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, currently investigating the Authority.
6)      Have only one cash lane per bridge, eliminating three shifts of toll-takers making $24/hour plus benefits.  Ideal?  No, but that’s the price for getting back to a bare bones operation without paying more tolls.
7)      Explore public-private partnership and leasing options. DRPA executives were never motivated to run the Authority like a business; in fact, the opposite was true.  The more money they spread around, from no-bid legal work (often where NJ and PA law firms would each generate billing for the same project) and insurance contracts, to engineering and economic development expenditures, the “return” was not Port Authority efficiencies, but personal gain and political profit.
If all management and operational aspects were turned over to a private, for-profit company skilled in streamlining techniques and maximizing efficiencies, the cost savings could be astronomical.  Such programs have been tried successfully with other toll roads, and a management company (with government oversight) could provide immediate and long-lasting savings.
It is time, once and for all, to see the DRPA return to its original mandate: collect toll dollars to operate and maintain safe bridges… bridgesthat have been paid for numerous times over.  Gov. Corbett has an historic opportunity to do just that by appointing reform-minded, accountable Commissioners --- former cop and current State Representative Mike Vereb, who continues to bulldog the DRPA into more reforms, comes to mind --- and immediately move to stop the toll hike. 
By instituting common sense cost-cutting measures and working closely with Gov. Christie to root out corruption and explore privatization options, Corbett may yet drive the DRPA back from the bridge to nowhere.
Who says you can’t fight City Hall?
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau,
Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris' recent bestseller "Catastrophe."
Freind, whose column appears nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a guest commentator on Philadelphia-area talk radio shows, and makes numerous other television and radio appearances, most notably on FOX.  He can be reached at

Dec 16, 2010

Tax Cuts, Unemployemnt Vs Fiscal Responsibility

PennPatriot's View
Repeal the tax cuts for the rich, they decry. It will cost us billions in lost tax revenue, they scream with righteous indignation. But give the unemployed money without saying how we'll pay for it, they plead. First, to repeal the tax cuts, for anybody, is called a tax hike. That's right. Raising taxes. In a down economy. This is just a ridiculous idea. And the thought that rich can afford a tax hike in a down economy yet still create jobs is so much more than ridiculous. Let us put this in a way that non-rich people can understand.

Here is your paycheck. But wait, we are going to take more money out of your paycheck so you will be getting less. Okay. Oh, and by the way, bread is now going to cost you more. So is medicine for your kids. And we're going to hike your electric, gas, water, sewer and school bills. No, you may scream. I can't live like this. You can't take money from me yet expect me to pay more for . . . hmmmmm, makes you think, yes? But let's say we are going to tell you that each year your paycheck is going to be different. Less, yes. But different every year. Now you can't even plan on vacations or sending the kids to college or buying a new car even though the one you have is falling apart.

This is how business views the ever changing idea of taxes and other legislation. They think years down the line. But with uncertainty of how their business will be affected by legislation (like the healthcare law, which has already seen companies like AT&T taking billion dollar hits), uncertainty of what their tax bill will be next year (let alone several years down the road, when they will need to rebuild or expand or replace equipment), and uncertainty on import/export costs, union issues and competition, it makes it hard for them to even think about hiring again.

Instead of thinking of the continuation of the current tax structure as a loss of incoming tax revenue for the government, the government needs to figure how to make do with less. The American people have to in our everyday lives in this economy, why not them? Why do they insist on paying for turtle crossing in Florida and upgrading airports that no one uses in Pennsylvania, when they can't figure how to pay their own employees? And on that note, the government needs to stop expanding the government employee base and start trimming. Oh and don't get me started on how most of the new jobs they have added are in the six figure range. If we have to think about the financial aspects of things like getting married, expanding a family or buying a bigger house in these hard times, the government should be no less responsible and stop twittering away our money on useless and overblown expansion of their own.

As for extending unemployment benefits I am of a conflicted mind. On one hand I can certainly feel for people who have been out of work with no prospect of work. I think we need to make sure that they are protected financially. And yet, we need to know how this is going to be paid for. Not by borrowing more from the Chinese or someone else. Nor should we just keep printing money, thereby devaluing the dollar even more.

But the biggest problem all around is a lack of work available. In order to get the jobs going, we need to do two really big things. One is to stabilize the economic situation. Stop the rhetoric of squabbling between political ideologies and stop the negative impression of those who have the capability to create jobs. In other words, stop bickering in Washington (which the November elections should have sent the message to those inside the Beltway) and stop making the rich, big companies and CEOs specifically the target of liberal and Democratic nonsense.

The second thing we need to do is stop making people believe that government is in the business of creating jobs. Government is not supposed to create jobs, they are supposed to create the atmosphere for job creation. It is business, big and small, which create jobs. Government should stop growing these none productive government jobs and tighten their fiscal belt. At the same time, they should create the stable atmosphere for companies to begin seeing a clearer horizon which will get America working again.

You can agree or disagree, it makes no difference to me personally. Just so long as I get you thinking for yourself and ignore the rhetoric by those who are only interested in getting themselves re-elected or only interested in outside interest like unions or other special interest groups.

Five Questions I'd Ask Pa. Gov.-Elect Tom Corbett

Guest Column By Jason Gallagher

Tom Corbett was recently elected the new governor of Pennsylvania. Along with the victory comes a slew of problems and challenging issues that are bound to creep up on any public official, but as a Pennsylvania resident, there are a few specific questions I would love to ask Corbett.

What is your plan to help combat unemployment and get people back to work?

While the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is lingering around 8.8 percent, a little below the national average of 9.6 percent, Pennsylvania is keeping jobs a little better than other parts of the country. However, with Unemployment Benefits due to expire, Pennsylvania will take a substantial blow to the economy. Supposedly, Tom Corbett has a specific plan for getting people back to work, but what is it exactly and how does he feel it will be a sustainable long-term solution to keeping income flowing into Pennsylvanian's pockets? Here in Western Pennsylvania, the collapse of the steel industry left many scrambling for jobs, this has to stop being a one or two industry region. Without jobs potential workers will only leave the state, and we need to keep great people here in Pennsylvania.

How do you plan to erase a $4 billion dollar shortfall in the Pennsylvania budget?

Gov. Elect Corbett faces a state budget that is nearly $4 billion dollars out of budget. I would like to know how he plans to generate an additional $4 billion or cut the same amount from the state budget without passing the spending on to Pennsylvania tax payers who have been hammered by the recession. Relying on short-term fixes to get through a rough patch is one thing, but it is vital to Pennsylvania that we come up with a budget that is achievable through realistic spending practices. It is important to this tax payer that my money is part of a large plan of effectiveness, not just being tossed into a growing hole of debt and unrealistic budget cuts.

Why is Pennsylvania not taxing gas drilling from the Marcellus Shale Region?

The Marcellus Shale Drilling Project may be the greatest industrial windfall Pennsylvania has seen in some time. We obviously need the financial benefits that a fee on the removal of natural gas would produce. This money could help offset losses in other areas, plus be put toward research and monitoring of the fracking process to ensure all Pennsylvania residents keep safe and clean water. Pennsylvania needs to stand up and take advantage of our natural resources, and that likely means taxing these companies removing those resources from the ground. This is important to the future of Pennsylvania not just the present, and it needs to be addressed.

How do you plan to attract more businesses to Pennsylvania?

Business is the spinning hub that keeps money flowing. Businesses employ people, businesses purchase supplies, and businesses pay taxes. CNBC ranked Pennsylvania 20th in a list of "Best States to Do Business", and in that same study the state ranks 42nd in the important cost of business category. Making some changes for businesses to operate in a more friendly environment could propel the state to top ten status. Making small businesses and large corporations comfortable would have an overwhelmingly positive effect, not only on the economy but also on the population. The tax money these businesses generate could help pay for education, prisons, healthcare, and so much more. It is vital that Pennsylvania take business creation seriously.

Will Pennsylvania feature more incentives to purchase energy efficient appliances and vehicles?

As a long standing advocate of responsible energy use, the short lived programs that inspired thousands of households to purchase Energy Star appliances and hybrid or electric vehicles was a step in the right direction. Now is the time build upon the success of that program and offer further incentives to consumers around the state to shop responsibly and make an impression. Not only will these devices lower utility costs, but the incentives can help offset their sometimes much higher purchase prices. These are programs that need to come back.

Dec 14, 2010

Don’t burden state’s natural gas industry with new tax

Originally Published by the Times Leader

By Timothy Kearney

Marcellus Shale has fractured existing societal fissures along the back country roads of Pennsylvania and chambers of government in Harrisburg.

Debates have flared over the proper level (if any) of taxation as well as drilling’s impact on clean water, pollution and disruptions in traditional lifestyles. It is an understandable result of a transformational discovery: the development of what could be one of the world’s largest gas fields.

The management of a natural resource such as the Marcellus Shale requires capital-intensive investment in a market where prices are unpredictable. This built-in business risk means that companies want as much cost certainty as possible, especially in the areas of taxation and regulation. Leaving them with open questions can hinder the development of a valuable natural resource.

There is a difference between taxation for general budget purposes and taxation to cover the inevitable costs of opening the state to natural gas production. As a partner in the development of this new resource, the state will have to underwrite some essential expenses. Roads will need to be built or strengthened to handle larger vehicles and traffic volume, and some basic services will have to be increased. To the extent that boom-towns boom, there could be the need to build schools and provide other public services. Looking both back into the state’s history and ahead into the future, the commonwealth will have to prepare for potential toxic cleanup costs or well reclamation.

The issue of taxation for Marcellus Shale development, though, should not be separated from the question of business taxation reform for the entire Pennsylvanian economy. Governor-elect Tom Corbett correctly has identified the need for the Keystone State to improve its business climate in order to generate growth and employment. Pennsylvania ranks 26th in the nation in terms of business tax climate, according to the Tax Foundation.

The best that can be said is that our state is the beneficiary of even worse policies in neighboring New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Maryland – all of which rank in the bottom 10. Our commonwealth received a “C” letter grade from the Pennsylvania Business Council for the state’s business competitive position. Facing fierce global competition for capital and jobs, being average simply will not do. The core of Corbett’s agenda is to change the business climate without new taxes. With the electorate and a new state Legislature behind him, he has the mandate to move forward in the New Year.

It would be a mistake to put a new tax burden on this fledgling industry, which is in competition with low-tax, gas-producing states such as West Virginia and Texas among others. It’s essential to remember that the market for gas is global and the advantages other states give their industry through the tax code are real. Pennsylvanians should not envision Marcellus Shale as simply a goose laying golden eggs, lest that goose fly away.

The temptation to levy special taxes – whether it’s because other states have severance taxes or simply to tap the industry as a new source of revenue to address state budget woes – should be strongly resisted. Transitioning to a new business tax system does open the door to impose some sort of tax on the new industry to ease that transformation to help balance the budget. But the point of tax reform is to broaden the base to lower tax rates on all business and most important to generate jobs and income.

The way forward is straightforward: Overhaul Pennsylvania’s business tax system to make all businesses in the commonwealth – natural gas and other mining entities, goods and service producers alike – more competitive. Capital moves to where it can be best put to use. Lower tax rates applied across all lines of business activities will increase after-tax returns throughout the commonwealth.

If Marcellus Shale cannot compete without subsidies, then now is the time to reassess the outlook for this sector. But with convincing data, it appears this industry will continue to generate tax revenue and income across the state for years to come — if it is allowed to flourish. The best way for Marcellus Shale to become a cash cow for state coffers is to let it reach its maximum potential.

Timothy Kearney is an assistant professor of business at Misericordia University in Dallas Township, and is a former senior managing director of Bear Stearns & Co.

Dec 12, 2010

Does Pennsylvania really need 500 school districts?

(Originally Published as a Op-ed by The Patriot-News)

Many people statewide are stepping up efforts to take school boards to task for what they see as shortcomings in their management, teacher compensation and student achievement.

Many justifiably decry the continuous rise in property taxes that are undeniably a burden, particularly to those on fixed incomes. Some have said that they will not tolerate additional school tax increases. That sounds great, but do the common suggested solutions really solve the problem? And are the taxpayers really addressing the right audience? Instead of writing to school boards, perhaps taxpayers should be talking to their neighbors.

We, the citizens of Pennsylvania, know the real problem and it is us. We are 200 years behind the times, and we haven’t demanded enough from our political leadership. The real root of the tax problem is our failure to pressure our state representatives to make a serious attack on a broken system.

Our current setup is more suited to our agrarian and small-town roots than the reality of the geography and challenges of today’s Pennsylvania and a globally competitive economy. Our leaders seem in thrall to teachers unions on the one hand or self-absorbed and parochial school boards and taxpayers on the other. What will it take to get them to tell us hard truths that if we want more successful outcomes and a fairer funding system, somebody has to give up power, somebody will pay more and something must be done differently? Let’s stop posturing and taking the easy and ineffectual route of pushing school boards to cut programs for our kids and blaming our hardworking teachers.

How about we begin to push one another and our state and local representatives to address the real culprit, the silly little boxes we’ve clung to for so long with 500 school districts and 2,566 municipalities in one state. It’s absurd. We look ridiculous. We are ridiculous. If we are as passionate about fixing this tax crunch as we claim we are, why don’t we take the next logical step and have one school district for each county?

We cling to our little boxes. David Rusk, national expert on revitalization and author of “Cities Without Suburbs,” called these 2,566 municipalities “rocket fuel for separatism.” At some point, we’ll realize we’re all in the same boat, and we’ll begin working together for the benefit of all our children.

Until I hear a demand for the unity that is the only true route to tax relief and educational achievement for all, I can’t take too seriously the demands voiced by taxpayers in any district. If we really want lower taxes, we’re going to have to stop maintaining our separatism and stop thinking of this tax issue as an isolated problem. Inelastic borders will always be inelastic borders no matter how much we criticize the teachers, advocate simplistic solutions such as outsourcing or push for cuts of student programs. The only solution to inelastic borders is no borders at all.

Here’s what our political leaders are afraid to tell you: We have way too many political leaders. What in Maryland would be a simple neighborhood association is an entire little government in our state, a government with offices, equipment, systems, vehicles and personnel just like the other dozens of municipalities in each county. Redundancy is inefficient and wasteful.

No one wants to see any municipal leaders lose their jobs, but that is certainly preferable to continuing poor scholastic performance and ever-increasing taxes.
And it’s not just the tax burden that’s serious.There are kids throughout our state who are being shortchanged, and we’re missing out when they don’t reach their potential. Even when some students do excel, we lose again because they often move out of Pennsylvania once they’re out of school.

Why do our young people leave their home state at a rate much higher than the national average? Is it because they don’t want to live in a state where its citizens lazily allow their competitiveness to be strangled by an antiquated system? And with so many of our young people leaving, don’t we run the risk of becoming a state largely devoid of youthful talent, energy and ingenuity?

United we stand, and divided we fall. If we want to save money, we’re going to have to face reality right now and stop segregating ourselves and our kids. The little boxes we cling too just cost too much.

WILLIAM H. SWARTZ III of York is president of Sherman Property Management Inc. and was on the Metro York task force that explored opportunities to foster government cooperation.

Dec 9, 2010

Kanjorski will vote against tax deal

Borys Krawczeniuk (Staff Writer) for the Citizens' Voice is reporting that ousted Congressman Paul Kanjorski (D - PA), 11th District, plans to vote against a compromise deal negotiated by Pressident Obama and Congressional Republicans that if passed would extend the tax custs pass under President Bush for two more years. The proposal would aslo extend unemployment benefits for one more year.

Kanjorski, who will leave office in January, predicted the two-year extension will become permanent because no one will want to raise taxes before the 2012 federal election and a newly elected president will not want to begin a new term in 2013 advocating a tax increase.

"This is really giving this tax break for the next 10 years," he said. "Where is he (President Obama) going to get the majorities in either the House or the Senate to change it? This was the time when we should have allowed it to pass over to the new Congress that was newly elected. Let them make the decision, and if they wanted to cut the taxes for the wealthy, it would have been perfectly all right for me. I don't think it was the role of the Democratic Party to do that. That's not what I read in the election results." (Click Here To Read More)

I have to respectfully disagree with Representative Kanjorski on this one. In the game of politics especially in this hostile, partison environment when you get two out of the three things you want; the extension of tax cuts for the middle class and unemployment, you vote for it. It is sad to see Kanjorski once again following Speaker Pelosi's marching orders just like he did during the Health Care debacle which ultimately led to his constituents throwing him out of office. Stop whining Kanjorski and vote for the proposal!

This seems like a good compromise and the extension for two years places the issue firmly in the control of voters in 2012. The American people will either choose to support a tax increase for those making $250,000 a year or more or throw out more greedy incumbent lawmakers who seem hell bent on more spending. If any group should be outraged it is the Tea Party supporters over the extension of unemployment benefits for a year.

Prosecutor Seeks Out-Of-County Jury In State Senator Jane Orie's Ethics Trial

District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. will be requesting that the jury for the Feb 7th 2011 ethics trial of state Senator Jane Orie be selected from another county. Assitant District Attorney Lawrence Claus stated that the request to select an out-of-town jury is based largley on the amount of pre-trial publicity speerheaded by Orie herself. Senator Orie has claimed that the ethics charges filed against her by the District Attorney are politically movitivated.

Orie has been charged with violating the state's conflict-of-interest statute by using state resources in her district offices; ie staff, technology, and office supplies, to assist her sister's, State Supreme Court Justice Eilene Melvin, with her campaigns in 2005 and in 2009.

According to a grand jury report, at least 15 of Orie's staffers testified that they or other staffers did campaign work or fundraising for the senator from 2001 through 2009, and on behalf of Melvin during her unsuccessful 2003 Supreme Court campaign and again in 2009 when she was elected.

Orie's youngest sister, Janine, also is charged in the case and has been suspended from her job as Melvin's Supreme Court aide. (Click Here To Read More)
There is no doubt in my mind that if you just look at the facts in this case that a jury will convict Senator Orie. The charges against her are sound and has already led to a Grandjury invsestigation of her sister, Supreme Court Justice Melvin. Orie's claims that the charges are political motivated are ridiculous considering that an intern in her own office first reported the misconduct. If sisters have no secrets you can bet that Justice Melvin knew of the campaign activityy being cunducted in Senator Orie's district offices as well.
The bottom line here is that Senator Orie broke the law and should be punished accordingly. The Orie family would be wise to plea bargain a deal and move on from this. Everytime this is in the news and as trial moves forward the possible outcome becomes even more damaging. Orie's lawyers are trying to get the charges dropped by requested that the judge rule that the state's conflict-of-interest statute is unconstitutional on the grounds that it is unenforcable. Well I think the DA in this case done a good job proving that that the law as written is enforceable by chargin Orie! Considering the power players involved in this case, the Allegheny DA may want to move the trial to another state. How can there seriously be a fair trial here when the judge's boss in this case is the deffendant's sister. Is this nepotism run amuck or what? Crazy!!!

Pennsylvania Teachers’ Unions Are Losing Their Cool --- And Their Power

Author’s note: For your viewing pleasure, a link to FOX 29’s fiery “non-debate” on school strikes follows this column. Is it any wonder why the PSEA won’t talk about the merits of strikes, and instead engages in personal, factually incorrect attacks (in Latin, no less!) on extraneous issues? P.S.: I am sending PSEA the bill for my blown-out eardrums.

To modify the legendary quote from Dean Wormer in Animal House: Arrogant, greedy and aloof is no way to go through life.

But that’s exactly how the teachers’ unions in Pennsylvania have behaved for decades.

With millions in forced union dues, they have constructed a statewide political empire, using their muscle to crush any and all opposition.

To their credit, they have been immensely successful in squeezing every last penny from broke municipalities and overtaxed residents. In good economies and bad, they demand and receive large raises and benefits, including, in many cases, free healthcare.

In Bucks County’s Neshaminy School District, for example, the unions have steadfastly refused to renegotiate their healthcare plan. Can you blame them? They don’t pay one cent toward their Rolls Royce plan, which costs $27,000 per teacher, per year. Meanwhile, those in the private sector are shelling out 30 or 40 percent of their healthcare costs, with many shouldering the entire burden. And when Neshaminy teachers retire, they are guaranteed healthcare until age 65. And as an added retirement “incentive”, they are handed almost $30,000 just to walk out the door.

Amazingly, Neshaminy isn’t the exception. Unfortunately, such excess is commonplace throughout the state.

To make the sin mortal, Pennsylvania leads the nation every year in school strikes. In fact, the Keystone State experiences more teacher strikes than all other states combined.

And that is the reason so many citizens are scratching their heads. Teachers are universally respected for the priceless role they play, but when they strike, especially in a recession where the private sector continues to hemorrhage jobs, it is seen as a slap in the face.

While Pennsylvania teachers are first in school strikes and top five in salaries and benefits, the same cannot be said of student achievement --- as evidenced by their 42nd –ranked SAT scores.

And you can’t just blame city schools for bringing the numbers down. In suburban Neshaminy, 33 percent of 11th graders aren’t proficient in reading, and 28% can’t perform basic math.

To the unions, money is the cure all. Pay more money (and better benefits) to the teachers while increasing funding for public education, and all the problems will be solved. But we’ve been doing that for decades, and education achievement hasn’t improved.

Given that the global economy is here to stay, our dismal academic performance becomes more dire every year. Our students are no longer competing against just those in San Francisco and Seattle, but Stockholm, Singapore and Sydney. Yet compared to our top 30 global counterparts, the U.S. is, at best, in the middle of the pack and more often, much lower.

The solution is to instill accountability to our schools and rein in the out-of-control unions. And with a new Governor and state legislature poised to tackle tough issues, the political will to enact meaningful changes is not just possible, but probable. Here are two immediate steps that would help bring vast improvement to Pennsylvania’s educational system:

1) Inject competition by enacting school choice. When parents have a choice in their children's education, schools that do well will attract more students and succeed, and those that continue with the status quo will lose students and fail. The free market system that has served us so well will have the same effect on our educational product. And for the first time in generations, our students will actually learn the skills necessary to succeed in life.

Governor-elect Tom Corbett made school choice a cornerstone of his campaign, and with solid Republican majorities in the House and Senate, look for that to take shape in some form this year.

2) Outlaw school strikes. No public sector union should have the right to strike, which is why our police and firemen are prohibited from doing so. It is beyond explanation that teachers, in whose hands we place our most valuable asset --- our children --- are not considered equally essential.

Strikes are disruptive to all parties. Parents experience incredible stress in their frantic search for child care, often risking job security by tending to their children, and students’ disciplined approach to schoolwork is shattered, with no possibility of a seamless transition after a long strike.

And who are we kidding? Sure, the law mandates a 180-day school year, but are students really learning anything sitting in a classroom over the Christmas break? Or in late June, days or weeks after exams have already been taken? In effect, students are held hostage so that teachers can justify their salaries and school districts don’t jeopardize their state subsidies.

But it is important to understand that teachers are also victimized by strikes. They become pariahs in their own communities, and respect for their profession take a hit. Let’s be crystal clear on one thing: many teachers often do not agree with the union leaders’ decisions. But when that leadership calls for a strike vote --- and refuses to use a secret ballot, as is almost always the case --- there is virtually no chance of opposition. The risk is simply too high, and the mob mentality rules the day.

At the minimum, there should be a law requiring secret ballot votes for school strikes, monitored by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor. That common sense, practical solution would be overwhelmingly supported by the public --- and the teachers.

If you outlaw strikes, though, basic fairness dictates that there should be a method to resolve an impasse. Perhaps the most viable alternative would be final best offer arbitration (FBO), the same system Major League Baseball uses with great success.

In regular arbitration, both sides throw out a number, with the arbiter often adding them together and dividing by two. That’s an inefficient system, because when one side makes a reasonable offer while the other side comes in with a pie-in-the-sky proposal, the result is lopsided in favor of the greedier party.

But with FBO, both sides innately understand the need to be reasonable in their proposals or risk getting blown completely out of the box. Cooler heads would prevail with FBO, and that’s most definitely in the taxpayers’ best interest.

Is FBO ideal? No, since you are placing an unelected arbiter in a position of power, but in the real world, it’s the best we have to stop the unaffordable contracts. It is a classic example of philosophical versus practical, and in this case, the practical side should prevail.

But there’s a huge irony here.

Because the union leadership has pushed the envelope for so long, the pendulum may be swinging back hard, to the point of potentially being unfair.

Outlawing school strikes --- as they are in 37 states --- can be enacted like any other legislation: pass both chambers and have the Governor sign the bill. That may well happen in the near future.

However, arbitration requires a constitutional amendment, a process that will take at least five years. So the unions are facing the distinct possibility of seeing the right to strike abolished, with no chance of arbitration as recourse. In effect, our teachers would be working as slaves to the school boards, and that is certainly NOT in anyone’s best interest, most of all our childrens’.

But right or wrong, they made their bed, and now they have to lie in it.

Aware that their backs were to the wall, the unions spent massively this campaign season on candidates sympathetic to their “plight.” Unfortunately for them, they suffered huge losses, and the head of the dragon is in danger of being decapitated.

From this point on, it’s a whole new ballgame.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has blazed a path to success in dealing with unions, and enjoys rising popularity every time he calls out their arrogance and greed. And his accomplishments have come with the Democrats controlling both legislative chambers.

In much the same mold, Tom Corbett’s vision is closely aligned with Christie’s, especially on education issues. With the GOP now in firm command of Harrisburg, they may yet provide Pennsylvanians with hope and change we can all believe in.

Taxpayers could only be so lucky.

FOX 29 Non-Debate On School Strikes: Freind Vs. PSEA’s Rob Broderick

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris' recent bestseller "Catastrophe."

Freind, whose column appears nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a guest commentator on Philadelphia-area talk radio shows, and makes numerous other television and radio appearances, most notably on FOX. He can be reached at

Dec 8, 2010

Perzel's Corruption Trial Delayed

How many Pennsylvania prosecutors, judges, and lawyers does it take to screw in a light bulb let alone convict a bunch of greedy, corrupt politicians? God only knows! Now Matt Miller over at The Patriot-News is reporting that Dauphin County Judge Richard A. Lewis has delayed the most recent Bonusgate trial until September 2011.
Lewis agreed to shift the trial's start date from April to September after Perzel's lawyer, Brian McMonagle, sought a delay given the vast amount of evidence defense attorneys must digest to prepare for trial. Click Here To Read More
The Bonusgate investigation by the Attorney General's Office began in December of 2005 when disgruntled democratic caucus employees leaked to the Patriot-News a letter by then Majority Leader Bill DeWeese encouraging staff who received bonuses for campaign work to keep quiet about them. Now almost six years later state prosecutors are still pushing forward with prosecutions well into the fall of 2011. I don't know why there isn't as much public outrage over the handling of these cases as there was during the pay raise. Six years to even start a trial is just ridiculous.

More: Perzel, co-defendants fight corruption charges (Post-Gazette)

Ex-rep wants 400 conspiracy counts dismissed (WHPTV)

Nov 20, 2010

Stuck in Low Gear: Job creation languishes as recession lingers

The economic recession in Pennsylvania leveled off last spring, but results of the Fall 2010 Keystone Business Climate Survey reveal the recovery has not yet begun. The drop in sales that plagued Pennsylvania businesses through 2009 and into early 2010 has slowed, however employers continue to shed jobs as they try to minimize losses and perhaps turn a profit.

One year ago the survey found owners and chief executive officers in a dour mood over the state's business climate. At that time a record 64% said they felt business conditions in Pennsylvania had gotten worse in the previous six months. The spring 2010 survey found some improvement with 43% saying they viewed the economy has having gotten worse. There was no change in the recently completed October 2010 survey with 43% again saying business conditions in the commonwealth had deteriorated over the past six months.

The number of owner/CEOs saying the state's economy has improved over the past six months increased slightly from 13% last spring to 17% in the fall survey. That is also an improvement from one year ago when just 1% viewed the economy as improving. Forty percent in the Fall 2010 survey said they viewed the state's economy as having remained about the same over the past six months.

Looking ahead, 38% expect the state's economy to remain about the same over the coming six months, 34% forecast a continuing decline in economic conditions, while 27% expect the Pennsylvania economy to improve.

The bad numbers come in the area of employment. Twenty-nine percent report that employment levels at their company are lower than they were six months ago. Last October, 25% of the companies reported declining employment. The good news is that 17% percent in the current survey say employment levels at their company have increased, that is up from the 11% that reported increasing employment levels a year ago. Fifty-three percent say employment levels in October remained at about the same level as they were last March.

Pennsylvania likely will have to deal with stubbornly high unemployment for the immediate future. Over the coming six months employers project essentially the status quo in the number of people they employ. Sixty-four percent say they plan to keep employment at the current level for the next six months, 18% forecast a decline in employment while 18% expect to add employees.

The bright spot, to the degree there is one, comes in the area of sales. In March of this year 52% of the companies surveyed by the Lincoln Institute reported sales had declined over the previous six months. That number dropped to 40% in the October survey. The companies reporting sales increases rose from 21% last spring to 25% in the current poll. Thirty-five percent of the companies said their sales remained constant throughout the year.

As we look ahead to the coming six months, 32% say they expect sales at their company to increase, while 20% forecast a decline. A plurality, 46% say they expect sales to remain level.

Pennsylvania's generally poor business climate relative to other states has prompted a number of companies to consider moving from the commonwealth. Fourteen percent say they are considering moving at least some of their operations to other states, while 3% say they are considering moving all of the Pennsylvania operations elsewhere.

Job Approval Ratings

Elected officials generally speaking got negative job performance reviews by the business owners and CEOs surveyed by the Lincoln Institute. U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, who was defeated for in the May Primary by Congressman Joe Sestak received the highest negative rating at 78% and only 12% giving him a positive review.

President Barack Obama and his economic team also were given poor job performance reviews. Seventy-four percent have a negative view of the President's job performance with 20% expressing approval. Sixty percent disapprove of the job being done by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner Forty-five percent held a negative view of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke relative to the 32% who have him a positive rating.

On the state level, Governor Ed Rendell also is held in minimal regard. Seventy-four percent expressed a negative view of the governor's job performance with just 18% giving him positive marks. Sixty-two percent gave negative ratings to U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. The only statewide elected official to receive a majority positive job performance rating was Attorney General Tom Corbett, who chalked up a 58% positive rating against a 19% negative rating. Auditor General Jack Wagner earned a 21% positive rating and a 17% negative rating, with 62% holding no opinion. Sixty-seven percent voiced no opinion on the job being done by State Treasurer Rob McCord, with 11% giving him a positive job performance rating and 22% a negative rating.

Legislative bodies also are viewed in a negative light by Pennsylvania employers. Ninety percent hold a negative view of the job being done by both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. Seventy-seven percent hold a negative view of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and 72% voiced a negative view of the job being done by the Pennsylvania state Senate.

National Issues

President Barack Obama's proposal to stimulate the U.S. economy by spending $50 billion on infrastructure improvement projects such as highways, airports and railways was opposed by a two-to-one margin by the employers and CEOs who participated in the Fall 2010 Keystone Business Climate Survey. Sixty-one percent said they oppose the stimulus plan while 38% offered support. If, as suggested by many Democrats in congress, projects implemented under the proposed stimulus were subjected to project labor agreements (PLAs), meaning only unionized labor could be used on the projects, then opposition to the program skyrocketed to 89% and approval dropped to 9%.

On the subject of the Bush-era tax cuts which are set to expire at the end of this year, 68% said they favor extending all of the tax cuts while 21% want to extend the tax cuts for those making $250,000 per year or less and 9% do not want to see any of the tax cuts extended.

State Issues

Conventional wisdom holds that roads and bridges in Pennsylvania are in such bad shape that they constitute a transportation crisis. Results of the Lincoln Institute's poll of business owners and CEOs found less of a sense of urgency. Forty percent rated the condition of the state's roads and bridges as poor, but 43% rated them as fair. Fifteen percent say the roads and bridges are in terrible shape, while 1% say road and bridge conditions are excellent.

Sixty-eight percent say they are not willing to pay higher gasoline taxes to fund improvements to Pennsylvania's roads and bridges, while 27% say they would pay higher gasoline taxes. Thirty-eight percent expressed a willingness to pay higher vehicle and/or driver license registration fees, but 60% objected to higher fees.

Among the options being considered to raise tax revenue are additional taxes on companies drilling in the Marcellus shale reserve. Fifty-two percent said they would agree with a severance tax on gas drilled in the Marcellus reserve, while 45% opposed such a tax.

Education funding remains one of the largest expenditures in the Pennsylvania state budget each year. A plurality of 34% of the employer/CEOs polled say spending on K-12 public education in Pennsylvania is at about the right level; 25% think spending is too low and 24% think it is too high.

And what are we getting for the money we spend on public education? Forty-six percent say despite the additional spending the quality of K-12 education in the commonwealth has remained about the same over the past five years; 30% say it has gotten worse and 14% say the quality of public education has improved. When asked to give K-12 public education a letter grade, 10% assigned it an "A," 35% a "B," 26% a "C," 16% a "D," and 6% an "F."

When asked if they think it is possible for the next governor of Pennsylvania to balance the state budget without raising taxes, 75% said they think that it can be balanced without new/additional revenue, while 22% think it cannot. Further, the employer/CEOs polled believe the level of spending by state government has an impact on the Pennsylvania business climate. Fifty-eight percent said state spending has a significant effect on the state's business climate; 30% say it has a moderate effect, while 9% think it has no impact.

General Economic Climate

Among the difficulties businesses face in expanding and creating new jobs is access to credit. Forty-three percent of the respondents to the Fall 2010 Keystone Business Climate Survey said access to credit has gotten more difficult over the past six months. Only foour percent said they found getting credit to be easier; and 37% said access to credit has remained about the same. Another 13% said they do not access credit.

Cutting jobs and hours has been a key tactic for many businesses in dealing with the effects of the economic recession. Fifty-one percent said they have had to reduce employees work hours while 42% say they have laid-off employees. Changes in pricing have also played a role in coping with the effects of the bad economy. Thirty-seven percent said they have cut prices, 29% increased prices. Another 14% have reduced their product lines while 7% have closed or consolidated facilities.


Ninety-four percent of the business owner/CEOs participating in the Lincoln Institute poll say they plan to vote in the upcoming November General Election. In the race for the U.S. Senate, 68% say they plan to vote for Republican Pat Toomey while 15% expect to cast their ballots for Democrat Joe Sestak. Republican Tom Corbett is the choice of 70% of the respondents for governor of Pennsylvania, while 13% say they will vote for Democrat Dan Onorato.


The 2010 Keystone Business Climate Survey was conducted electronically by the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. from September 27, 2010 thru October 18, 2010. A total of 181 individuals participated in the poll of which 67% were the owner of the business, 23% were the Chief Executive Officer and the balance the state or local manager of the business. Complete numeric results are available at

Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His email address is

Nov 6, 2010

Paterno Wins 400 Hundred! Penn State Defeats Northwestern 35-21

Wow what a week this has been here in the Commonwealth Pennsylvania! First Pennsylvania republicans win big on Tuesday winning the Governor's race, an open US Senate seat, the state house, and end up flipping four Congressional seats. Now today the people of Pennsylvania can celebrate another major victory with Penn State Coach Joe Paterno. Penn State defeated Northwestern today 35-21 to notch JoePa's 400th victory. Unbelievable!

Coach Paterno won his 400th game today with class. His team overcame a 21 point deficit to become the first Division I coach ever to hit the 400-win plateau! (A couple non-DI coaches have also done it.) The Penn State legend reacted after the game with his typical modesty, saying it was just another win, but with his wife, Sue Paterno, by his side and the Nittany Lion faithful going nuts, you know that couldn’t be true!

400 victories by Coach Joe Paterno officially cements his legacy as the greatest football coach of all time at any level. The magnitude of this accomplishment combined with the number of lives he has molded over years is simply too great to not place him at the top of any coaching list.

I remember watching the 1986 National Championship game against Miami when I was 10. Penn State's classic victory inspired me to always want to play football for Coach Paterno and Penn State someday. That was always my dream. I wasn't good enough to play at Penn State, but Coach Joe Paterno still had a big impact on my life.

The story of Coach Paterno reminds us how great America truly is. As Joe would say, It's time to "Turn the boys into men"! It is time to stop looking back and time to focus on what is ahead of us. We need new leaders in the mold of Joe Paterno that inspire us to accomplish more than we ever imagined. That believe in us more than we believe in ourselves! Let's all focus on our next victory and turn America around!

Coach Paterno is the father of Pennsylvania football. Paterno's steady, conservative approach to the game and life has lasted the test of time. Congratulations Coach Paterno! Republicans win and JoePa gets his 400th victory now the country is finally moving in the right direction.

Joe Paterno - 400 Wins Tribute Video

More Links: As the times change, Paterno remains true to his values (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Paterno's 400th victory comes in dramatic fashion (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Paterno records 400th win as Penn State beats Northwestern (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Penn State rallies to win No. 400 for Paterno (Allentown Morning Call)

America's Forensic Election

Guest Column by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L. Young

Regular elections determine who represents us in our representative democracy. But some exceptional elections do much more. These “forensic elections”—for that’s what they are—hold an electoral stethoscope against our body politic, gauge our civic vital signs, and offer both diagnosis and prognosis for any political malaise we may be experiencing.

We had a forensic election on November 2nd. And the lessons it taught about contemporary American politics promise to resonate loudly over the next two years in the run-up to the 2012 election.

Here’s our short list of five of them whose shelf life easily reaches November 2012.

1. The Economy Is THE Issue: Bush got it too late. Obama didn’t get it at all. And so voters in 2010 found themselves again sending a message they thought had been sent before: fix the economy and produce jobs.

The primacy of the economic issue in recent times is perhaps unrivalled in its intensity. Not surprisingly, candidates this year focused almost exclusively on the economy and jobs, suggesting that the political establishment has gotten the message at last.

Nevertheless, how the new Congress and the president approach the jobs issue—and their success in handling it—is likely more than any other factor to determine the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. Voters expect action on job development. And if they don’t get it, the voter wrath of 2010 will become the voter rage of 2012.

2. “Change” Has Become the Unchanging Impulse in American Politics: This is now the third consecutive election in which voters rejected the status quo. These three “wave” elections have all been about change. First, in 2006, it was opposition to the Iraq war. Then, in 2008, anxiety about the economy produced a second wave. Finally, in 2010, came a stunning rejection of Obama’s recession policies.

This is no passing phase in our politics. For almost a decade, voters consistently have indicated that the country has been moving in the wrong direction. Currently two thirds of the nation holds that view. Moreover, voters overwhelmingly give unfavorable job evaluations to Congress, the president, and the political parties. Voters want change in Washington. This change motif has become the political zeitgeist of our times.

3. The “Politics of Subtraction” Is Real and Lasting: Explosive federal spending under both Bush and Obama has crystallized political opposition to larger deficits and increased spending. The Tea Party movement is grounded in the notion of cutting spending and reducing the role of government, and a solid plurality of ordinary Americans agree. In poll after poll over the past two years, reducing the federal deficit and paring down national debt have consistently ranked among the top five problems facing the nation.

The politics of subtraction inevitably will produce that perfect storm of political pain: the need to raise taxes while reducing benefits. Congress is likely to confront that nasty reality when it tackles the emerging Medicare and Social Security crisis.

4. The Center Continues to Disappear from American Politics: Moderates or centrists have become about as trendy in American politics as pegged pants and hula-hoops. To compromise may be human, but to polarize has become divine.

This election has materially accelerated the trend to obliterate centrist influence in Congress. For Democrats, the loss on Tuesday of many of the 54 mostly moderate “Blue Dog” Democrats, along with retirees, will leave their party even more sharply liberal. On the GOP side, the addition of Tea Party Republicans will make the congressional Republicans ever more conservative.

Moderates and centrists are increasingly missing from both parties. This lack of a middle in American politics makes agreement on critical issues, such as entitlement reform and tax policy, difficult if not impossible. Incredibly, another shut down of the federal government such as happened in 1995 cannot be ruled out.

5. Divided Government Becomes Deadlocked Government: Washington next January will be described in many ways. One appellation that will not be applied, however, is “one big happy family.” At least not unless one thinks of the Hatfields and McCoys that way. The Congress that convenes in January will be one of the most unruly, polarized, and politicized Congresses in modern history.

Congressional Republicans will be pulled to the right even more by Tea Party activists who have already warned party leaders that compromise on spending, taxes, and regulation will not be tolerated. On the Democratic side of the aisle will be a solid phalanx of liberal Democrats that have been carping for months that Obama surrendered the liberal agenda by not pushing vigorously all of his 2008 reform promises.

The practical consequence is likely to be ever increasing incivility amid legislative deadlock on almost every important issue, putting in doubt the future of the Obama presidency and his ambitious agenda.

Closing the books on 2010, we move from one critical election to the next critical election in 2012. Indeed, since at least 2002 we have had a series of these pivotal elections. Nor does it seem we are done with them. Beyond doubt, we are in the midst of a turbulent transition in national politics as we move from the relative stability of the late 20th century to the relative instability of the early 21st.

Meanwhile the 2012 presidential election looms, an election that seems more and more likely to be remembered as one of the defining elections in American history.

Politically Uncorrected™ is published twice monthly, and previous columns can be viewed at Copyright © 2010 Terry Madonna and Michael Young.