Feb 16, 2012

Does Anyone In Washington Really Want to Reduce the Deficit?

Guest Column By Richard A. Viguerie

The annual Capital Hill insider ritual of declaring the President’s budget “dead on arrival” -- while the other Party does nothing to rein-in spending -- has begun.

So, to cut straight to the chase, neither Democrats nor establishment Republican leaders really want to reduce the federal deficit. Otherwise, they would actually vote for -- and pass -- reductions in spending.

While Obama’s budget is a thinly disguised election year sham that will add another $1 trillion to the deficit this year (while claiming $4 trillion in phony deficit reduction over the next ten years), Republicans are little better.

Despite the good intentions of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the actions of House Republican leaders speak louder than their words. And their actions show there will be no deficit reduction this year.

From the recently announced "deal" to back-off their position to require spending cuts to offset the ill-advised payroll tax cut, to their annual charade over the Medicare “doc fix,” to their knee-jerk opposition to any reductions Pentagon spending -- Republican leaders have already shown they will not make the tough choices, or take the tough election year votes, necessary to reduce spending.

As Wall Street investment guru Porter Stansberry wrote recently, "This year's $3.6 trillion federal budget is 20% larger than the entire 2008 budget. And while our government has grown at a record pace, our economy hasn't. It has hardly grown at all. [emphasis added] Thus, this will be the fourth year in a row we set a record for deficit spending. Never before in peacetime has our government borrowed this much money. And now, it's borrowing record amounts every year."

The thinking that has allowed this situation to continue shows Capital Hill Republican leaders -- particularly in the House -- learned nothing from the Tea Party rebellion that brought them back to majority status in the 2010. They are still operating with the Bush/Hastert/Frist spending mentality, and that spell will never be broken until new leaders, untainted by those old ways of doing things, are elected.

Richard A. Viguerie is the Chairman of ConservativeHQ.com. ConservativeHQ.com is the online news source for conservatives and Tea Partiers committed to bringing small-government constitutional conservatives to power.

Feb 13, 2012

Five Years of Corruption Trials…and Counting

Guest Column by Tim Potts

This month marks the five-year anniversary of the series of scandals that has made PA’s General Assembly the most criminally prosecuted legislature in America during those five years.

Last week, Rep. Bill DeWeese, Greene, became the first sitting lawmaker to be convicted. Also last week, former Rep. Brett Feese, Lycoming, was sentenced to 4 to 12 years in jail for his part in the Computer Scandal, uncovered as prosecutors investigated the Bonus Scandal. So far, 21 lawmakers and staff have been convicted of a variety of crimes involving the theft of taxpayer money for personal and partisan political purposes.

The response by lawmakers has been virtually nothing. The overwhelming majority of lawmakers and their leaders are content to remain pro-choice on corruption.

Here’s a brief history of the scandals as compiled by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Bonusgate: How the statewide public corruption case unfolded, Feb. 12. Here’s a list of the scandal defendants and their disposition, also from the Post-Gazette. And here’s an AP story: Lessons of PA corruption probe may be short-lived, Centre Daily Times, Feb. 12.

But wait! There’s more!

Former Rep. Mike Veon, Beaver, already in jail for previous convictions, begins trial today on another set of charges that he illegally used taxpayer funds to benefit himself personally and politically. In prison for bonus scandal, former House whip Veon faces new trial, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Feb. 13.

Still pending are trials of former Rep. Steve Stetler, York, also a Bonus Scandal defendant, and Sen. Jane Orie, Allegheny, and her sister Janine Orie, who also are accused of using taxpayer money for personal and political gain.

As if that weren’t enough, PA Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin is a target of an investigation by an Allegheny County grand jury. Former Sen. Raphael Musto, Luzerne, was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2010: Grand jury indicts Sen. Raphael Musto for allegedly accepting kickbacks, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Nov. 23, 2010. Former Sen. Bob Mellow, Lackawanna, is under federal investigation for allegedly violating several federal laws: Mellow spends big on lawyers, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Feb. 10, 2012.
We repeat: The response by lawmakers has been virtually nothing. The overwhelming majority of lawmakers and their leaders are content to remain pro-choice on corruption.

PA voters know what to do as documented in DR’s 2012 Public Integrity Poll. So does the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader in this editorial: State convention our best hope, Feb. 12, the latest among virtually every newspaper in PA.

Returning to DeWeese, his sentencing is scheduled for April 24. Ironically, that’s primary election day, and DeWeese will be on the ballot.

Whether April 24 will actually be primary election day is yet another question. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) still has the option to re-draw the legislative map for this year after the PA Supreme Court ruled their proposed plan is unconstitutional.

However, if the LRC does re-draw the map for this year, it will require the legislature to push primary election day back, perhaps into June or July, unless it wants to hold the Congressional primary on April 24 and a second primary for the General Assembly later. The estimated cost of the extra primary is $20 million to $25 million.

Under any circumstances, the LRC will have to adopt a new plan to be used in the 2014 elections.
Did we mention that 72% of PA voters want to change how legislative districts are drawn, while only 15% oppose a change?

The General Assembly’s strategy of deny (“Problems? What problems?”), delay (“We’ll deal with them soon.”), and distract (“But first we have to deal with this other huge problem over here.”) is working like a charm.

Get ready for a major push to get the referendum for a Constitution convention on the ballot in November.

Feb 9, 2012

Rick Geist's campaign goes negative early, calls challenger a "radical" in today's letter requesting support

Well the primary season is heating up here in the Pennsylvania 79th Legistlative District republican primary race. And Representative Rick Geist's campaign isn't wasting any time going after challenger John McGinnis.

A letter that I received in the mail today written by Geist's Campaign Chairman, Patrick Fanelli, calls McGinnis a "Radical". The letter goes on to suggest that Representative Geist has been "targeted" by an unnamed Harrisburg-based political organization.

(A funny passage from the letter) A Harrisburg-based political organization has targeted the 79th Legislative District seat and Rick's consistent conservative voting record by recruiting a radical candidate to oppose him in the upcoming Primary Election on April 24, 2012

The letter goes on to suggest that the 79th District is also going to be invaded by aliens like in the October 30, 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. O.K. I'm just kidding. But the letter has that kind of frightening tone to it. So be afraid. Be very afraid 79th district voters of the unnamed Harrisurg-based boogie men out to snatch the 79th legislative district. Oh and support Rick Geist's campaign.

The most interesting part of the letter is the assertion that Representative Geist has always adhered to three tenents of the Tea Party movement: 1. Lower Taxes, 2. Smaller Government, and 3. Return to the Constitution.

No he did not just pull the Tea Party card. I'm confused here.

How can a state legislator claim to be an advocate for a return to the "Constitution" when he voted for an unconstitutional pay raise and took the unconstitutional unvouchered expenses? Maybe the letter was referring to our U.S. Constitution instead of the Constitution that actually governs the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Geist's claims of being a staunch advocate for lower taxes and smaller government are not reflected in his record either according to the Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania . On their website post dated March 3rd 2011 , "CAP to Rep. Geist: Lead, Follow, or Retire", Geist was quoted saying that Governor Corbett's 2011 budget proposal to eliminate WAM's (Walking Around Money for state lawmakers) was "unrealistic". Geist even refused to sign the group's "No WAMs" Pledge. This is something a think a true Tea Party advocate would support don't you think?

Furthermore, Geist also voted for Ed Rendell's 2005-6 state budget that raised the state personal income tax by 15 percent and increased state spending 6.1 percent. In fact Geist voted in favor of the 2008-2009 budget that also increased state spending during the Rendell years.

All of this just doesn't add up. If Geist is a true Tea Party supporter than I'm the Easter Bunny!

Pennsylvania Manufactures' Association Is Happy With Corbett's Budget Proposal

(HARRISBURG) Governor Tom Corbett's FY 2012-2013 budget continues the difficult but necessary work of imposing fiscal discipline on state government and positioning the commonwealth for economic recovery, said Frederick W. Anton III, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association.

"Tom Corbett is a man of his word," Anton said. "When he pledged to make state government live within its means, just like Pennsylvania households and businesses do, he meant it. The governor's budget plan holds the line on spending, protects Pennsylvania's overburdened taxpayers, and makes additional improvements to our economic competitiveness. After too many years of borrow-and-spend profligacy, Tom Corbett's pro-growth agenda of fiscal responsibility is directing Pennsylvania toward a more prosperous future for the entire commonwealth."

Governor Corbett's FY 2012-2013 General Fund budget proposes to limit spending to the 2011-2012 level of roughly $27.15 Billion. Although slow economic growth has yielded approximately $500 Million less in state tax collections than expected, Corbett is holding fast to his pledge to oppose tax increases and instead will bring the budget into balance with additional spending reductions.

"Fiscal discipline is the first and most important step toward returning Pennsylvania to stronger economic growth and a better competitive position relative to other states," said PMA Executive Director David N. Taylor. "For too long, Pennsylvania has missed out on new jobs, capital investment, and economic growth due to chronic overspending in Harrisburg, high business taxes, lawsuit abuse, and regulatory overkill. Governor Corbett recognizes these challenges and is tackling them head-on, which is the hallmark of a true leader. On behalf of Pennsylvania's manufacturing sector, we thank Governor Corbett for being true to his principles and doing the difficult work of right-sizing state government."

The FY 2012-2013 General Fund budget also continues state government's commitment to phase out the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax, a business assets tax that employers pay regardless of their profitability. Combined with the highest-in-the-nation 9.99 percent Corporate Net Income Tax, Pennsylvania is one of the only states in America to impose both a business income tax AND a business assets tax. Under the original phase-out plan put forward by Governor Tom Ridge, state government would have stopped collecting the Capital Stock and Franchise Tax on January 1, 2009. Under the current phase-out plan, the CSFT rate fell to 1.89 mills on January 1, 2012 and will further drop to 0.89 mills on January 1, 2013, with the CSFT reaching zero on January 1, 2014.

"Ever since the crippling 1991 tax hike, Pennsylvania's employers have struggled under some of the highest business taxes in the nation. Ending the uncompetitive Capital Stock and Franchise Tax after five years of delay will at long last send a signal to employers and investors that Pennsylvania is serious about becoming job-friendly," Taylor said.

Founded in 1909 by Bucks County industrialist Joseph Grundy, the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association is a Harrisburg-based statewide trade organization representing the manufacturing sector in Pennsylvania's public policy process. Manufacturing is the largest sector of Pennsylvania's economy, adding $75 Billion of value annually, generating 13 percent of Gross Domestic Product, directly employing 575,000 Pennsylvanians, and sustaining millions of additional Pennsylvania jobs through far-reaching supply chains and distribution networks. To learn more about the association and its work, visit www.pamanufacturers.org

Feb 1, 2012

Update: Rick Geist's challenger John McGinnis' Campaign Announcement for the 79th Legistlative District

Here is John McGinnis' official campaign announcement last night. His energetic speech focused on changing the cycle of corruption Harrisburg. McGinnis highlighted Rep. Geist's record of voting for the 2005 Pay Raise Scandal, his votes to increase his pension, and Geist's over usage of the ever popular per diem.

McGinnis says his campaign will be based around three R’s: Reform, Reality and Renaissance. “We’re maxed out as taxpayers in Pennsylvania,” McGinnis said. “As the government has grown at 5.3% in the 33 years since Rick Geist was first elected to office, we’ve had an economy that’s been stagnant and population growth that has been stagnant – that just doesn’t work.”

McGinnis says he won’t take a public pension, per-diems or a pay raise – and he says he’ll limit his time in office.“Just as the constitution says, you get a salary and you get mileage -- and that’s what I will take,” said McGinnis. “I will abide by the constitution of Pennsylvania.”