Apr 27, 2012

Rick Geist fails to make the fall ballot as the Democratic Party's nominee

Rick Geist's political career is over.
Representative Rick Geist's 34 year Harrisburg career is finally over. Today, the Blair County Election Board released the their final election totals and Geist has failed to receive enough w to be the Democratic Party's nominee on the fall ballot. The final election totals show that Geist only received 172 write-in votes.

Many Harrisburg insiders have speculated since Geist defeat on Tuesday that he would accep the Democratic Party's nomination if he received enough write-in votes. After the election Geist hinted about a possible run in yesterday's PA Independent article.
Geist said Thursday he likes his chances of winning the general election over McGinnis, but would first have to decide if it is worth it to run.

“I don’t know yet. I’d have to have a long discussion with the business community and others,” he said in a phone interview with PA Independent.
But in the end Geist came up short. Suprisingly when you look at the vote totals, John McGinnis the Republican Party's nominee who defeated Geist by 200 votes in the Republican primary received 80 write-in democratic write-in votes.

Richard Flarend, a physics and energy instructor at Penn State Altoona, did receive 306 write-in votes, enough to be on the ballot in the fall as the Democratic Party's nominee. This sets up an election battle between two Penn State Altoona professors both focusing on reforming state government in the November election. 

Apr 26, 2012

Not Everyone's Cup of Tea

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

Even if one doesn't buy tea, drink tea, or even like tea, the well-steeped tea leaves from Pennsylvania's April 24th presidential primary still make for some fascinating reading. Together they vividly portray contemporary currents in state electioneering while portending some dynamic changes in future politics and policy.

Here are five take-aways from the voting. Not all are everyone's cup of tea, but all are likely to influence Pennsylvania politics long after the November presidential election enters the history books.

• Party endorsements aren't worth much.

Governor Corbett and the Republican Party failed to deliver the U. S. Senate nomination to their endorsed candidate Steve Welch, showing once again that endorsements often mean little in modern statewide politics. This is a lesson state Democrats also have painfully learned over and over in past elections. In modern politics, with self-financed candidates, sophisticated media campaigns, and 24 hour news coverage, endorsements only matter if they bring significant financial and organizational resources. Increasingly state parties lack the heft to back up their candidate choices. In the future, party endorsements will certainly play much less of an important role.

• Ideological polarization continues in both parties.

The focus this time was on the Democratic Party with two powerful "blue dog" conservative congressman going down to defeat at the hands of more liberal opponents. Both Tim Holden, the most senior of Democratic candidates and Pittsburgh area's Jason Altmire are only the latest casualty of a seemingly inexorable trend to hard-edged ideological politics from both parties. A parallel trend in 2010 produced similar results for the state's Republican Party, adding five strongly conservative Republicans to the state's delegation. When the new Congress meets in January 2013, the state's congressional delegation in Washington will be more polarized along conservative-progressive lines than any time in modern history. Significantly, so is the state legislature in Harrisburg.

• Democrats might finally have figured out how to be competitive for Attorney General.

Since its inception under the amended state constitution, the office of Attorney General has been held continuously by Republicans. Voters appear to be more comfortable with GOP attorneys general explaining some of the reasons Republicans have dominated the office. But state Democrats have aided and abetted the problem by often failing to nominate AG candidates that appealed to the electorate's preference for a take-no-prisoners prosecutorial style candidate. Now in nominating Kathleen Kane, an experienced state prosecutor, who can and, in fact, has financed her own campaign, the stage may be set for a hard fought closely contested fight for attorney general this fall. Certainly Democrats seem to have a better shot at winning the office than any time in recent memory. Real competition between the two parties for the office is more important than ever since future attorneys general are more and more likely to continue to be future gubernatorial candidates.

• Continuing dominance of legislative incumbents.

Several marquee races resulted in the defeat of five state House legislative incumbents as well as a couple of closer than expected contests. These isolated elections, however, almost all featured unique local conditions. The much bigger picture is the huge number of incumbents that ran without opposition in the primary or face opposition only in the November General Election.

Altogether more than 40% of state House members and 20% of state Senate members face no opponents at all this year. Only a miniscule eight percent of senators and 14% of House members faced opposition in the primary. Of those with opponents in the fall, many face only token opposition. We are a long distance from the watershed 2006 anti-incumbency election in which 54 new members were elected. This year neither anger nor antipathy has morphed into a serious anti-incumbency fervor. The 95% reelection rate for incumbents of past years may not be returning yet, but we are far from enjoying truly competitive legislative elections in Pennsylvania.

• A curious combination of apathy amid continuing anger prevails among voters.

Even as voters continue to fulminate at their politicians and their policies, turnout Tuesday hovered in the low 20% range. Part of the problem with turnout is the dearth of competition in many state races. Voters simply don't have enough choices. In the recent primary only four senators and 28 House members had any challengers. Even the two incumbent congressional losses were the result of decennial redistricting rather than genuine competition. We face an interesting moment in history--low turnout despite the anger and the angst--how does that work for the fall? Democrats show slightly more enthusiasm than Republicans in the national polls, but neither party's voters seem deeply motivated. Will voters also just stay home in the fall as they did in the spring? An angry voter with an agenda for change is a positive thing; an angry voter, alienated from participation in the system, is a dangerous thing.

Politically Uncorrected™ is published twice monthly, and previous columns can be viewed at http://politics.fandm.edu. Copyright © 2010 Terry Madonna and Michael Young.

Apr 25, 2012

Memo from Voters: Stuff Your Endorsement

Guest column by Lowman S. Henry

Tuesday's primary election highlighted two serious structural deficiencies in Pennsylvania's electoral process. Once again the "Keystone State" was anything but in the presidential nominating process. And, clearly the day of the party endorsement - especially a nod forced from the top down - has passed.

For several weeks it appeared as if the Pennsylvania and New York primaries would be pivotal contests in the race for the Republican Presidential Nomination. But, several weeks ago when former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum suspended his campaign our state's primary was rendered virtually meaningless. Sure, delegates had to be elected to the national convention, but the nomination had been decided.

Every four years there is talk about moving Pennsylvania's primary to an earlier date, perhaps to so-called "Super Tuesday" in early March, but nothing ever comes of the idea. So, as in presidential contests past, small states like Iowa and New Hampshire, and even other industrial states like Michigan and Ohio got to impact the choice of the nominee while we here in Penn's Woods watched from the sidelines.

Four years ago state Democrats did get a big say in the Obama/Clinton race, but that brief spurt of relevance was an exception to the rule. This year, lacking the glitz of a presidential contest, voter turn-out was abysmal. So many down ballot races - for congress and for seats in the state legislature - were decided by in some cases less than a quarter of the registered electorate.

Despite tepid participation in the primary election, voters did manage to deliver a message or two. The race with the most political ramifications was the five-way contest for the Republican nomination to take on incumbent U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. That race turned into a virtual referendum on the once vaunted Republican Party endorsement process. That process was shredded by voters as they relegated the endorsed candidate, Steve Welch, to third place.

The Welch defeat marks the first loss of a Republican Party endorsed statewide candidate in a non-judicial race in over three decades. Part of the reason for voter rejection of the party pick was the heavy-handed manner in which the Welch endorsement was forced on Republican State Committee members by Governor Tom Corbett and party leaders. The fact is Welch would never have been endorsed without that support, and his candidacy never did develop any real grassroots appeal.

Party apologists will contend that the personal financial wealth the winning candidate, former Tea party activist Tom Smith, brought to the race was a deciding factor. But, Welch is wealthy himself and put over a million dollars of his own money behind his candidacy. And, former State Representative Sam Rohrer finished second having spent few dollars, but earning a wave of grassroots support. Welch failed to dominate with either money or manpower - two advantages normally associated with the party endorsement.

This year's GOP endorsement debacle has politically wounded an incumbent governor and called into question the effectiveness of the party apparatus in a vital presidential election year. The Republican State Committee should re-evaluate the future of party endorsements. The process this year both divided and weakened the party, calling into question its utility going forward.

Part of the reason for this is that the endorsement process has degenerated from truly democratic selection into a tool by which party and elected leaders exert their control over who gets nominated. The GOP has already split into "establishment" and grassroots conservative camps with the latter gaining influence with each passing election cycle. Forced endorsements only inflame the grassroots further aggravating that divide.

None of this is good for the party, and neither will it yield good government. This year's presidential election is shaping up as one of the most important in generations as voters decide whether to continue down the soft socialistic path of the Obama Administration, or return America to its historic traditions of individual liberty.

That battle will ultimately unite all factions within the GOP. But going forward, the Pennsylvania Republican Party must ditch the endorsement process and restore individual liberties within the walls of its own house.

Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.

Apr 24, 2012

John McGinnis defeats Rick Geist in the 79th!

John McGinnis defeats Rick Geist!
There is no doubt that tonight was an historic election here in the 79th Legislative District. Longtime Harrisburg incumbent, Rick Geist, was defeated by John McGinnis in the republican primary election 52% to 48%.

The scene was an emotional one at John McGinnis' campaign celebration. McGinnis's supporters cheered as the final vote tolals came in and the race was called on WRTA. McGinnis was very humble in is victory. He thanked God for blessing his campaign and thanked his supporters for their dedication. McGinnis made sure they knew that this victory would not have been possible without them.

McGinnis then went on to focus on his message throughout the his campaign. Tonight was a victory for liberty and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania he said. Tonight McGinnis' campaign sent a message to Harrisburg that business as usual is not what the voters here in the 79th District want.

John McGinnis's victory is something I will never forget. A group of dedicated, hardworking everyday people were able to change the direction of state government. Liberty, the Tea Party, and freedom are alive and well here in the 79th once again.

Some 2012 Pennsylvania Primary Election Predictions

It's Primary Day in Pennsylvania!

Republican Senate Primary Race: In a surprise victory Sam Roher defeats Tom Smith, Steve Welch, and Marc Scaringi. Both Smith's and Welch's campaign ads highlighting their past ties to the democratic party made them both look bad. Also a big embarrassment for Governor Corbett backed Welch losing here.

 Attorney General Race: Kathleen Kane may be the PA democratic party's answer to Sarah Palin. She's hot! She wins a big victory over Patrick Murphy. The truth is Kathleen Kane ran a great campaign. Murphy did not.

State Auditor General Race: John Maher wins this one big. Frank Pinto gave it his best shot. GOP party establishment candidates always win these races.

4th Congressional District  Race: Commissioner Chris Reilly (R) tops Rep. Scott Perry (R).

17th Congressional District  Race: Attorney Matt Cartwright finally takes down  Representative Tim Holden

12th Congressional District Race: Jason Altmire (D) defeats Mark Critz (D). This will be very close.

11th Congressional District Race: Gene Stilp (D) defeats Bill Vinsko (D)

29th State Senate District: Businessman John Rich (R) defeats Senator David Argall (R).
Argall voted for the pay raise and Citzen's Alliance of Pennsylvania sending a message with a victory here.

37th State Senate District: Businessman D. Raja (R) defeats Rep. Mark Mustio (R). Mustio's racial debacle doomed his candidacy.

50th District House Race: Bill DeWeese resigned his seat this morning and will end up winning the nomination tonight again in Green County. 

79th District House Race: This no doubt will be the biggest surprise upset of the night. Professor John McGinnis takes out longtime republican Rep. Rick Geist. Geist's negatives were just too high to overcome in the polling data. Also this is another impressive victory for Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania. Another pay jacket caucus leader goes down tonight!

Apr 23, 2012

U.S. Senate candidate, Tom Smith, is the one true shady candidate

The thesaurus describes someone who is shady as one who is not worthy of trust or belief; simply put "an untrustworthy person". In fact, I can't think of a better word than shady to sum up Tom Smith's campaign thus far. I have to say in all my time I've been blogging on state politics, I've never seen a more shady candidate than Tom Smith.

His latest campaign commercial makes you believe that he is the only true conservative candidate running in the Pennsylvania republican primary for U.S. Senate.

That my friends is just laughable.

Tom Smith has some gall considering he was registered democrat for 45 years.

A few months ago, on August 4, 2011, Smith switched his registration to republican, just three weeks before he filed as a U.S Senate candidate as a republican, on August 25, 2011. To this day, Smith has never voted in a Republican primary in his life. Just two years ago, in 2010, Smith was also elected and served as a local Democratic Party committee member in Armstrong County.

Smith also recently made a maximum $2,400 campaign contribution to liberal Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman Jason Altmire. But you got to love how Smith's republican backers like to bring up the fact that Smith also made campaign contributions to conservative candidates as well. Really? Altmire!

Added to all of this, is the fact that Smith was horrible in virtually every debate and didn't seem to fully grasp the questions let alone answer them. There is a big difference between making donations to candidates that will benefit your business and actually and running for elected office.

As a conservative primary voter, I just can't see myself supporting this guy. He seems to be all over the map and is basically a big money business owner who seems to like throwing a bunch of politcal money around.

All the campaign commercials between Welch and Smith that basically highlighting how liberal they both are just made me want to pull my hair out. Considering the fact that Steve Welch voting for Barack Obama and Smith voted for Bob Casey Jr. I just can't see how conservatives can seriously support these idiots.

There is no doubt in my mind that Sam Roher is the best candidate to take our conservative message to the voters in the fall.  So there you go I hope I helped my conservative friends here in Pennsylvania figure this crazy republican senate primary out.

Conclusion, vote for the one candidate that is a life long republican and did not vote for President Obama or Bob Casey Jr.

Rick Geist vs. John McGinnis: Rick Geist and the culture of corruption in Harrisburg

Rick Geist and his buddy John Perzel.
Here in the 79th Legislative District, Representative Rick Geist loves to pound his chest and highlight his 34 years of service  in Harrisburg. Geist's own biography says that he ranks as one of the General Assembly's, "most senior statesmen moving to the top of the House Republican seniority list in this, his 17th consecutive two-term representing the 79th legislative district.

Geist has a way of portraying his 34 years of service as almost heroic. His radio ads and TV ads over the years always end by saying that Geist is "your man" in Harrisburg representing your values and fighting for the people.

But when you look at those 34 years under the microscope you see a very different story. Infact, Geist has been right in the center of the many of the recent scandals that have rocked Harrisburg over the past decade. In recent posts, I've already highlighted Geist's votes for the 2001 pension grab and the unconstitutional 2005 pay raise scandal.

Let us not forget that it was Rep Rick Geist who nominated former Representative John Perzel (R-Philadelphia, now in jail guilty of corruption) for the position of Speaker of the House not once but twice.

A grand jury accused Mr. Perzel and nine others in a scheme that funneled more than $10 million in state funds to political causes.  The grand jury accused Mr. Perzel of politicizing virtually every aspect of his state office, using technology workers to develop political databases, deploying legislative workers assigned to district offices as campaign researchers and funding anonymous "robo-calls" to homes in the districts of fellow Republicans who defied him on a 2005 pay raise bill -- 82 criminal counts in all, ranging from conspiracy and theft to conflict-of-interest. Perzel pleaded guilty on August 31, 2011 to eight criminal charges, including two counts of conflict of interest, two counts of theft, and four counts of conspiracy for his role in using state tax dollars and state government resources for political purposes while in charge of the House Republican Caucus. On March 21, 2012, District Judge Richard Lewis sentenced Perzel to 30 months in prison and to pay one million dollars restitution to the state.

The following is what Geist had to say about his good buddy John Perzel during his nomination speech on the floor of the state House of Representatives in 2005.
(Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Legislative Journal January 4th 2005)

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Blair County, Mr. Geist.

Mr. GEIST. Thank you very much, Mr. Chief Clerk.

It really is an honor for me to rise today to second the nomination of my good friend, John Perzel.

In 1978 we came in together. John was just so full of energy, unbelievable energy, and I had the pleasure of working side by side with him during the battles and watching him mature to Speaker of the House of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

And when you look at John, you think, wow, this guy really has been a self-made man. When I nominated him the last time, the first time for Speaker, I said that he was going to need a seat belt to stay in that chair up there because it would be impossible for him to stay out of the fray. John loves the debate process. But along the way, as any good Speaker does, he really became the shepherd of this House, and when we talk about a sense of collegiality in this wonderful fraternal organization, and new members are going to learn that, as I have discussed it with Mike Veon and Kevin Blaum and my three great seatmates, George Hasay, Merle Phillips, and Dick Hess, that kind of bonding that you get in this job is unbelievable. You will never
explain it outside of this building.

And yes, we read where John Perzel is now the most powerful politician in Pennsylvania – I certainly believe that – but to us in here, both Republicans and Democrats, he is a member’s member. He knows what it takes. He is not afraid.
He makes decisions for the good of the order, and that is the job of a Speaker.

Mr. Chief Clerk, I am absolutely delighted to second the nomination of our good friend, John Perzel, for Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Another nomination speech by Rick Geist supporting John Perzel for Speaker on the floor of the House of Representatives in 2007.
(Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Legislative Journal January 2nd 2007)

Mr. GEIST. Thank you very much, Mr. Chief Clerk, and boy, it is a pleasure to see you up there, Roger, after all these years. I do not think there is a finer guy in Harrisburg than you.

I stand here today to place in nomination the name of John Perzel for Speaker of the House. In 1978 when I came into this body with John and a few of us who are left, we were a bare minority, and I got to know John very, very well as an individual. I think he is a brilliant politician, a great guy, a guy who has done a fabulous job over all the years, and a guy who has been able to reach consensus, which is what this body is about. It takes 102 in the House and 26 in the Senate and a Governor to agree, and this is a guy who has been able to put it all together.

We have not always agreed on everything and we will not – he is from Philadelphia; I am from Blair County – but there is one thing that I do know: He knows how to do this job, he knows how to manage this House, and he understands the business of politics that we are all in. There is nobody who can do a finer job than John Perzel, and I place his name in nomination. Thank you.
These speeches are telling considering the man he is nominating for Speaker is perhaps one of the most corrupt politicians in our state's history. The part of the speech that really is chilling is when Geist says of Perzel "he really knows how to do this job, and really knows how to manage this House, and he understands the business of politics that we are all in". Spoken like a true Harrisburg insider.

The most pressing question for voters here in the 79th legislative race is how much did Geist, a member high up on the Republcian Caucus Seniority List, knew about Perzel's use of taxpayer dollars and state resources for political purposes. You would think a legislator that has been in Harrisburg 34 years and is, "Your Man in Harrisburg", would at least have a basic understanding of our state's campaign laws.

But evidence shows that Geist's previous campaigns actually participated in Perzel's corruption schemes. According to CasablancaPA Blog's, "Revisionist History" November 2009 post, Geist was one of the Republican House members who either knowingly or unknowingly were funneling contributions to the House Republican Campaign Committed through the State Capitol and their district offices. Geist was even mentioned by Rep. Mike Veon's (Former Minority Whip if the House now in jail for corruption) selective prosecution defense as one of the House republicans that were participating in the same type of activity in the legislature as he was. Here are a few links to examples of Rep. Rick Geist sending contributions to the House Republican Campaign Committee 2004 and 2007.

If Geist knew about the corruption why didn't he stand up to Perzel? I just can't stand a legislator who willingly violates the public trust or who stands on the sidelines when the public trust is being violated. It is time to kick out the longtime Harrisburg incumbents like Geist who have played a role in reducing the public's faith in state government to historic levels over the years. In my book Geist is one incumbent that needs to go.

For more information on Geist challenger John McGinnis's candidacy and his campaign please visit www.mcginnis2012.com.

Apr 22, 2012

Joe Paterno's family says no deal to renaming Beaver Stadium

It seems like the relationship between Penn State University's administration and members of the Paterno family continue decline. Today the Patriot-News is reporting , that Joe Paterno's family have recently turned down an offer by Penn State to rename Beaver Stadium after JoePA as part of a package deal that would have prohibited the family from suing the university.

This so called deal is simply outrageous. Imagine what the members of Paterno's family have gone thru these past five months, especially his wife Sue Paterno, and now we find out that the administration offered them to rename the stadium after Joe as part of a "deal". This is just shameful.

Thank God the family said no deal and apparently renaming the field in Joe Paterno's honor was not important to Joe anyway. Renaming Beaver Stadium is pretty much a fan driven idea but it is interesting to see the family's take on the matter.
A source close to the Paterno family says renaming the field would still be “a tremendous and humbling honor,” but it “has always been a fan-driven matter. It was never important to Joe.”

So in January, when Penn State tried to use the issue as leverage to get the family to sign a full release in exchange for paying the full contract, the family didn’t budge, the source said.
Renaming the stadium was one of three items in the package that would have come in exchange for a full release. The school also offered an apology for firing Paterno over the phone and said they would fully honor the late coach's contract.

Penn State did honor the terms of Paterno's contract last week by making an estimated $5.5 million termination payment to his estate, but an attorney representing his family stressed that the payout was not a settlement.

"The university had requested that the family agree to a full release in return for the payments under the contract," attorney Wick Sollers told the newspaper in a statement. "That request was declined and no release was signed. It would be incorrect, therefore, to characterize the payments as a settlement."

The terms of the contract also included a $3 million retirement bonus and the use of a Beaver Stadium suite by Paterno's family for 25 years, a privilege valued at roughly $1.5 million. Paterno's wife, Sue, will also receive a monthly payment of $1,000 for the rest of her life and has been granted access to specialized hydrotherapy equipment in the Lasch football building.

Rick Geist vs John McGinnis: Geist's leadership in Harrisburg has been a disaster

Last week state House Transportation Committee Chairman Representative Rick Geist (R. 79th district) held a press conference in the Capitol Rotunda to once again sound the alarm for more transportation and infrastructure spending. Geist, surrounded by leaders from the Pennsylvania Chamber, manufacturing, and big labor, (your typical Geist lobby cronies) pressed Governor Corbett and his colleagues in the General Assembly to pass legislation to increase funding for transportation and infrastructure improvements.

Geist has been Chairman of the State House Transportation Committee for the past 16 years, constituting half of his tenure in the General Assembly. Geist holds the distinction of being the longest-serving Majority Chairman of the Transportation Committee in House history (six terms, before Republicans lost the House Majority in 2007). As Republicans have returned to the majority, Geist reclaimed that position and continues to play a leading role in making policy that benefits (questionable) Pennsylvania’s motorists and all modes of its transportation system.

It is not surprising that during Geist's tenure as chairman of the House Transportation Committee Pennsylvania's infrastructure has continued to decline. Our roads and bridges are one of the worst in the country.  Geist's sense of desperation now regarding the lack of transportation funding to fix our aging infrastructure is almost comical. His diatribes on funding for transporation have become almost an annual yearly event in Harrisburg at this point.

Geist always sounds the alarm for more funding, more funding but nothing ever happens.  In fact, Geist never does anything about it. Through all the failed special sessions, the endless proposals regarding "public, private partnerships", and attempts to find "dedicated funding streams" like tolling Interstate 80, Geist's leadership has continued to fall short.

If you pay attention closely to the statements at the press conference, I think Geist and his special interest cronies are admitting failure at this point.
“We have terrible transportation problems,” said Geist, who stressed something needs to be done before the commonwealth experiences a tragedy because of a failed road or bridge.

“Without a reliable, effective and safe transportation infrastructure, Pennsylvania will falter,” added Sean Good, a lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, during the news conference.
Seriously guys?

The truth is, Geist's leadership as transportation Chairman has been a complete failure for Pennsylvanians who desperately want the satisfaction of driving their families over safe roads and bridge. Geist has only himself to blame and it is his lack of leadership on this issue that has gotten us into this mess. Over the past two decades legislative leaders like Geist seemed far more interested in fattening their pockets and paying off their lobby buddies than fixing our roads and bridges.

The last serious attempt to increase funding for transportation and infrastructure was legislation passed during the Ridge administration in 1997. This legislation increased the gas tax by 3 1/2 cents. The legislation also increased the cost of vehicle registrations by 50%. In order to get the legislation passed, Geist had to agree to give more funding from the new revenues to public transportation in Philadelphia (SEPTA) and Pittsburgh (The Port Authority) even though state revenue coffers were at a surplus at the time. Geist knew our roads and bridges were in bad shape at the time and this decision to fund public transit with this new revenue has been a disaster.

But despite the funding for public transportation many wonder where did the rest of the money go over Geist's 16 years?

To get the answer you have to think back at all the major legislative initiatives to come out of Harrisburg during Geist's leadership of the House Transportation Committee: you have the pay raise of 1997 that increased legislative salaries and gave them an annual cost of living increase that is tied to the cost of living calculations of Philadelphia.; oh and the massive pension grab of 2001; we can't forget the legalization of gambling for property tax relief; nor Governor Renedell's massive spending increases on education; and the topper has the be the 2005 middle of the night pay raise that the state Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional.

There is no doubt that Geist and his buddies like form Speaker John Perzel had their priorities in the wrong place for the past two decades.

Considering the fact that all these "terrible transportation problems" have occurred under Geist's watch as transportation chairman over the past two decades, any sane person would see the need to fire Rick Geist for the poor job he has done as the transportation leader for Pennsylvania. Geist himself admits failure - why would we even consider retaining him? It isn't logical. A wise man once said at a debate once that Geist never attended, "The true definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result".

It is truly time to dump Rick Geist on April 24th.

For more information on Geist challenger John McGinnis's candidacy and his campaign please visit www.mcginnis2012.com.

Apr 18, 2012

Rick Geist vs John McGinnis: Geist's campaign in serious trouble


I have a few conservative friends here in Altoona who are involved in the Rick Geist's campaign that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. Now we find ourselves on opposite sides of this campaign, fighting over who will do a better job representing our conservative value in Harrisburg. In my mind there is no doubt that John McGinnis is the right man for the job.

Time after time Rick Geist has let us down when it counted the most. Rick Geist voted the 1995 legislative pay raise which included the yearly cost of living increases. In 2003, Geist voted for the Governor Ed Rendell's budget that increased our income taxes by 15% and increased Harrisburg spending by almost 30%. In 2005, Geist voted for the now infamous midnight pay raise that increased his pay by another 28%.  Then we must consider Geist's decision to support increasing his taxpayer-funded pension by 51%. This record is hardly a conservative one.

During this campaign, Geist has chosen to remain silent and has made every effort to dodge opportunity after opportunity to defend his 34 years in Harrisburg. Last month, Geist skipped out on a chance to debate his challenger John McGinnis during an event sponsored by the Blair Chamber of Commerce. This gave McGinnis some momentum and was a complete embarrassment for the Geist. Then a couple of weeks ago Geist turned down an opportunity to speak at a local Republican Women's Club meeting.

But what I saw tonight on TV takes the cake my conservative friends. I turned on the local Public Access Channel and there was Rick Geist on the Labor in Blair County TV show hosted by his good buddy Bob Kutz who just happens to be the President of the Blair Bedford Labor Council. I just couldn't believe it. Does Geist even know he is running in a republican primary? As a conservative voter, I just loved the Union Yes sign that was directly behind Geist during the show. Nice touch! Don't know who the decision makers are over at the Giest campaign, but it has been a debacle so far.

If, Geist thinks union buddies are going to save him in a republican primary he is crazy.

Word on the street here is that the Geist camp is very worried about his prospects of wining the upcoming primary election on April 24th. Recent polling data is showing that this race is very close. The possibility of Geist losing is even being discussed in Harrisburg amongst some legislators. Add this to all the flyers I have been getting from the House Republican Campaign Committee on a daily basis now and you have a recipe for disaster within the Geist campaign. Once Harrisburg gets involved in a local campaign for an incumbent it doesn't always end well. Just ask former President Pro Temp Bob Jubelirer.

So in the end, the pay raise may claim another powerful incumbent in Harrisburg. And that would be O.K. with the primary voters here in the 79th legislative district. If we didn't vote for Pay Raise Bob than why would Geist and Harrisburg insiders think we would vote for Pay Raise Geist.

For more information on John McGinnis's candidacy please visit www.mcginnis2012.com.

Apr 16, 2012

Sam Rohrer for U.S. Senate

As the former co-founder and vice-president of the now defunct Upper Moreland Taxpayers Association (UMTA), I am endorsing Sam Rohrer in the PA Primary over the Republican party establishment endorsed candidate Steve Welch. (see my April 6th post "Cowardice in PA" for background on the "sit down and shut up" attitude of the PA RINO wing of the big-government party).

By way of background, the UMTA at its zenith had a dues paying ($5/year/household - $4/year/senior citizen household) membership of over 800 households in a township with less than 8,000 housing units. Though the organization eventually faded after several years of 10% of the members doing 90% of the work as is usually the case, we became a force to be reckoned with because our focus was to promote "fiscal responsibility" on the part of the Township Commissioners, local Sewer Authority, and School Board members. Our sole "social issue" was to oppose the move at that time towards "Outcome-Based Education (OBE)" in the public schools whereby the curriculum was to be dumbed down to increase the self-esteem of the chronic underachievers at the expense of motivated students so that failure rates would decrease and the "Bell Curve" would essentially be eliminated: enshrining equal educational outcomes, mediocrity, and social promotion as the new normal. Many politicians, the PSEA, and the PSBA were supporters of OBE. The UMTA and other community taxpayer groups throughout the state eventually turned the tide against this movement which was popular with the education elites back in the mid '90's.  

Though the UMTA was non-partisan and endorsed no particular candidates, we did favor a Township and School system which promoted the uniquely American ideals of hard work, thrift, and the pursuit of the dream of every person to achieve to the highest levels of their God-given talents in the striving for individual excellence.

Those of us who led this small community group were a "Tea Party" of township activists 15 years before the term was coined.

Having researched the backgrounds of the three most likely candidates on the Republican side most likely to emerge after the April 24th primary as the official opponent to Robert P. Casey, Jr. in the Fall general election, I have after thoughtful consideration decided to endorse Sam Rohrer for U.S. Senator. Unlike the endorsed PA Republican establishment candidate:  Steve Welch, a former Republican, turned Democrat, turned Republican again in the mold of Arlen Specter, a man who changed parties whenever it suited his career political aspirations, Sam Rohrer is a lifelong conservative. He is pro-life, pro-family, and pro-2nd Amendment. Sam has supported constitutional principles in the PA House for 18 years.

Another candidate: Tom Smith, is a lifelong Democrat who specifically changed his party affiliation to run for Senate. Further, he is self bankrolling his campaign, and thus in my opinion is attempting to buy a seat of power in the upper house of 100 princes commonly referred to as the United States Senate. No thank you!  We already have enough self serving pomposity in Washington, D.C.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Sam Rohrer personally and questioning him. I was impressed by the content of his character and the clarity with which he articulates constitutional positions through the same lens our Founders did: morality. That is: Sam believes in his core that our rights as free people are derived from our humanity and not bestowed on us by a benevolent big government that can just as easily void them when it suits their purpose to control the populace in the name of some nebulous greater utopian socialist goal, like "fairness," or "social justice" for example.

To me, the character of a person running for or occupying high office in America is not just important, it is critical. Having looked into the eyes of this man I have judged him worthy of my vote because he is the closest philosophical match to my beliefs as a constitutional conservative -  and I always vote my conscience.

Sam Rohrer would be, if elected to the U.S. Senate, an ally to Sen. Pat Toomey (PA), Jim DeMint (SC), Mike Lee (UT), Ron Johnson (WI), and Marco Rubio (FL), who all believe as did Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine "that government is best which governs least." After 100 years work by the Progressives in both parties to slowly erode our freedoms of speech, practice of religion, rights to preserve our property, defend our very lives, legislate every aspect of our lifestyle choices through "healthcare," and regulate every decision by private sector business owners, it is time to turn the "Titanic" ship of state around before it is bankrupted on the iceberg of debt and deficits. Sam Rohrer is the only candidate willing and able to change course.

Apr 15, 2012

This is exactly what is wrong with the PA GOP party establishment

PA GOP Party establishment turning their backs on republican principles and secretly supporting Bob Casey Jr.

Robert Vickers of the Patriot-News in today's article highlights how some members of the PA GOP party establishment are not that motivated to defeat Bob Casey Jr. this fall. Vickers's suggests that some of the party's "Kingmakers" are secretly supporting Bob Casey Jr. over the current slate of GOP primary candidates.

Two party establishment types quoted in the article are clearly outright supporting Casey's candidacy and had this to say about his re-election bid.
“We all know Casey,” said one party boss, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “He doesn’t make a lot of enemies.”

Another GOP power broker, who did not want to be identified because of his comfort with Casey, was more pragmatic. “It’s going to be very difficult to beat Bob Casey,” the high-ranking Republican said. “You can call him ‘Sen. Nothing’ and ‘Sen. Zero,’ but he hasn’t alienated anybody.”
Now this is exactly what is wrong with the leaders of our state republican party. It would not surprise a bit to find ou that one of these idiots could be Bob Asher, a Republican National Committeeman from Pennsylvania. Asher is well known "kingmaker".

The party faithful here in Pennsylvania should be outraged after learning of this level of support for Casey by our party leaders. Senator Casey has been a key player in moving President Obama's agenda through the United States Senate. Casey voted for Obamacare. He voted for all the stimulus debacles. Casey voted to fund Planned Parenthood despite everyone's belief that he is a conservative democrat that is pro-life.

Are you kidding me folks? I just can't see how you can call yourself a republican and be secretly supporting Bob Casey with his voting record. It is just sad that the current candidates fighting for a chance to take on Casey in the November don't even have the support of their party's leadership.

Apr 10, 2012

Santorum suspends his campaign

Today, Rick Santorum ended his campaign for president. Santorum with his family surrounding him mentioned his daughter Isabella's recent stint in the hospital over the weekend. Santorum said that Bella is recovering and thanked everyone for their thoughts and prayers. He also mentioned that he and his family prayed about this difficult time and decided now was the time.

In true Santorum fashion, this speech announcing the end of his campaign might be his greatest moment. During his statement Santorum seemed humbled and a even grateful. Santorum mentioned his family and relayed the stories of the thousands of people that he met on the campaign trail.

"It was a love affair for me going from state to state and seeing the differences but seeing the wonderful, wonderful people of this country who care deeply about where this country is going in the future, who care deeply about those who are out there paddling alone who are feeling left behind and in some respects are feeling hopeless and want to do something," he said.

Santorum also mentioned the importance of his message and the issues that drove him to run for president in the first place. He mentioned the importance of guiding the nation back to it's founding principles, the need to control an ever expanding federal government, and getting the economy back on track. He also vowed to keep up the fight.

The political pundits could have never predicted the rise of Santorum in this race. In the beginning Santorum wasn't even relevant until his big win in Iowa. At the time Santorum came out of no where and shook things up. Santorum ending up winning 11 states and greatly exceeded expectations. Conservatives have to give Santorum his do here. He ran a great campaign with limited resources. He did an outstanding job laying out and relaying a true conservative message to voters.

Apr 8, 2012

Hey Governor Corbett. Hope you enjoyed firing Coach Paterno. You just lost my vote

Last week ESPN Magazine reported that Governor Tom Corbett played a greater role than he originally indicated in the firing of Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno. In fact according to ESPN the Magazine's report, Corbett seemed to be a major force pushing the Penn State Board of Trustees towards their eventual decision.
There is no doubt many Penn State fans believe that Paterno's firing was political motivated and unwarranted considering the facts laid out in the Attorney General's report. In fact, I firmly believe that Paterno did nothing wrong in his handling of a possible on campus sexual assault that was reported to him a day after the incident by a staff intern. Paterno even followed the University's own policies regarding staff reporting evidence of sexual assault on campus. This paragraph on Section 9: "General Reporting Information" in the Student Affairs', Protocol to Assist Victims of Relationship, Domestic and Sexual Violence pretty much explains Paterno's actions that now infamous Saturday.
The University encourages victims of relationship, domestic or sexual violence to report to law enforcement authorities. Whether or not to report to the police is a decision the victim needs to make, except in certain circumstances when reporting is required by the University. If staff are uncertain about whether they need to report an incident, they should consult with their supervisor and, if necessary, with the director of University Health Services.
Paterno himself admitted he did not know how to handle the matter. He was not an eyewitness. The incident occurred the day before. Paterno thoughtfully considered what actions he could take which were limited considering Sandusky was a retired coach and didn't fall under his authority. So Paterno's final decision to report the matter to his supervisor, Tim Curley the Athletic Director, and the head of the University Police, Mr. Shultz, seemed to follow the University's own protocol.

Now I know Mr. Corbett is a smart man. But maybe the members of Penn State's Board of Trustees and Governor Corbett's staff should have bothered reading the University's own policies before they gleefully fired the most beloved college football coach of all time over the phone.

Perhaps the most telling part of the ESPN the Magazine's reporting, the part that angers me the most, is the accounts of eye witnesses that say that Corbett was out drinking it up the same night celebrating his political victory. This seems kind of odd considering Corbett himself as Attorney General sat on the Sandusky investigation for more than two years while accepting a large sum of campaign money from members of The Second Mile's Board of Trustees, Sandusky's foundation.

The treatment of coach Paterno by Penn State's Board of Trustees and the media is a very divisive issue here in Central Pennsylvania. I am sure Governor Corbett will start feeling the political heat from this report very soon. Like I said in the title Governor Corbett, I hope you enjoyed your political victory when you convinced members of Penn State's board to fire coach Paterno. I'm just letting you know now that you just lost my vote and I'm sure the vote of many other die hard Penn State fans here in Pennsylvania.

Santorum's Last Stand

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

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

The Pennsylvania primary scheduled for April 24th was to be Rick Santorum’s triumphal return - celebrating his resurgence in national politics after his crushing defeat just six years earlier for re-election to the senate.

It’s not turning out that way.

Instead Santorum is finding himself ensnarled in a nasty dog fight with Mitt Romney that is looking more and more like Santorum’s last stand. Out spent by Romney by margins sometimes approaching ten to one, trailing badly in pledged delegates, and lacking Romney’s powerful ground operation, Santorum cannot afford to lose his home state. Yet three polls now show the race to be competitive--Franklin & Marshall, Mercyhurst and Quinnipiac find that Santorum’s once daunting lead over Romney has been erased in less than a month.

Why? What has happened to the once promising campaign that promised to derail Romney’s presidential hopes and set up a classic conservative versus moderate battle within the GOP?

A close look at the last month of the campaign reveals the painful contours of the Santorum slide. Altogether five factors have converged to turn Pennsylvania into what could beSantorum’s last stand. They are:
  • Santorum’s foray into social issues badly misfired hurting him among independents.
Santorum’s odyssey into reproductive health and related social issues, often delivered in a provocative manner has cost him supporters especially among independents and moderates. In Pennsylvania that means large stretches of the state, including Philadelphia, the vote rich Philly suburbs and the Lehigh Valley might well snub his candidacy. Worse perhaps, the animus engendered by Santorum’s frequently controversial remarks has tended to take his focus off jobs and the economy. Santorum, in a phrase has consistently gone off message in the last month and it is costing him.
  • The once vaunted Santorum surge is sagging badly.
From late January through February, Santorum rode a genuine momentum as powerful as any seen in a Republican primary in a generation. He won several important states including Mississippi and Alabama and had sizable early leads in key Electoral College swing states like Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. But he subsequently lost all these states and with it the air went out of much of the Santorum balloon. No Republican can win the presidency who doesn’t win a majority of these battleground states in the fall.
  • Romney’s huge financial advantage is overwhelming
Romney has regularly out spent Santorum by margins of 7 to 1 and higher, sometimes much higher. In one state it was estimated the Romney edge was a stupendous 70 to 1. Just one of Romney’s Super PACs has spent almost 40 million dollars, according to theLos Angeles Times, most on negative ads. During the Wisconsin race, Santorum achieved a symbolic victory by holding Romney to a mere 4 to 1 spending edge. No candidate in the age of media politics can long withstand a barrage of this magnitude.
  • Romney has yet seriously to campaign in Pennsylvania
Romney has now drawn within striking distance of Santorum in Pennsylvania without serious campaigning. His stunning financial advantage combined with a growing campaign operation in the state means his support will inevitably swell when he does begin to campaign, spending time and money in the state. In other mega states like Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, Santorum started with substantial leads only to see them wither away as the Romney campaign gathered steam. That’s likely to happen in Pennsylvania, too.
  • Many, perhaps most Republicans, want the race to end
The GOP race has become nasty personal, filled with vitriol and – worst of all – helping no one but the Obama campaign. In just a few months Obama has gone from a long shot for re-election to holding national leads over both Romney (4%) and Santorum (8%). Together with an improving economy, Obama’s prospects to win reelection have improved markedly. At the same time all the Republican candidates, save Ron Paul have seen their negatives rise, always ominous in an election year. The lesson seems only too clear; the longer the GOP race continues the harder to beat Obama in the fall.

Santorum’s rise and fall carries with it enough paradox to launch a Russian novel or two. It’s hard to miss the irony that a campaign beginning in a defeat for reelection to the senate six years ago could end with another defeat six years later in the same state. Perhaps the supreme twist, though, is that Pennsylvania’s chronically late voting Republicans may finally get a primary that matters.Enigmatically however, they get it only by dumping the first Pennsylvanian to seriously run for president in almost half a century.

Politically Uncorrected™ is published twice monthly, and previous columns can be viewed at http://politics.fandm.edu. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any institution or organization with which they are affiliated. This article may be used in whole or part only with appropriate attribution. Copyright © 2010 Terry Madonna and Michael Young.

Have A Blessed Easter Everyone

On this day we all celebrate the Resurrection of our lord and savior Jesus Christ. Let us remember it was his spirit, death, and resurrection that has freed all mankind from the darkness of sin. His death and resurrection has brought us closer to God.

I believe Easter is the gift of HOPE. Easter is the gift of PEACE. Easter is the gift of LOVE. This is a time to rejoice. May God bless you at Easter and keep you all year through. May his light and grace always help to guide us on our way. And may his love bless you this Easter day.

Apr 6, 2012

Do politicians represent unions or taxpayers?

Guest Post by Lowman S. Henry

Conservative activists from across Pennsylvania gathered recently for the annual Pennsylvania Leadership Conference. From the podium and through the hallways a common theme emerged. There is a palpable sense of disappointment - and growing anger - over the slow pace of Gov. Tom Corbett and the Republican-controlled General Assembly toward enactment of the conservative agenda.

Activists are quick to credit the Governor and his legislative allies for last year’s state budget which held the line on both spending and taxes. Credit is also given for the fact this year’s proposed budget - and likely final budget - will follow suit. But those accomplishments are the only reason why conservative anger has not turned into outright hostility and rebellion.
Fueling disillusionment among the party’s base is the progress being made in other states. Conservatives have watched with envy as Indiana enacted a Right to Work law. Wisconsin - liberal Wisconsin - passed sweeping reforms that threw off the yoke of labor union repression that had bloated that state’s budget for decades. From Chris Christie’s war against the education establishment in New Jersey to policy victories in Virginia, Florida, Ohio and other states conservatives nationwide are enacting their agenda.

Here in Pennsylvania the conservative agenda is dead in the water. During the early months of the Corbett Administration we were told the budget came first, that other issues would be addressed after the budget was passed. The budget was passed nine months ago and the record of accomplishment since then is, well, dismal.

School choice was to be the crown jewel in this session’s legislative crown. But even a watered down version of school choice failed to pass the General Assembly. Ditto privatization of the state’s liquor stores. Efforts to protect the unborn via the Women’s Right to Know Act floundered and was pulled from the legislative agenda. Right to Work is mentioned in hushed tones and even a modest update to the state’s Prevailing Wage law remains bottled up in a House committee.

Pointing to policy victories in other states, conservatives are demanding to know why, with a Republican in the Governor’s Office and historic Republican majorities in the General Assembly more progress is not being made. Matthew Brouillette, President of the Commonwealth Foundation, has the answer. He correctly points out that the Republican/Democrat model does not apply in Pennsylvania. Rather the legislature is divided between the union party and the taxpayer party.

And the union party is winning. Last summer a number of contracts with state labor unions were up for renewal. Rather than take a stand to bring labor costs under control, the Corbett Administration simply caved into union demands. It bought labor peace, but that tranquility will come at a considerable price to taxpayers. In the state Senate, leadership has opposed liquor store privatization and other conservative initiatives. Simply put, the upper chamber has become a conservative policy graveyard. In the House, labor leaders recently lauded House Labor Committee Chairman Ron Miller (R-York) as “our man in Harrisburg.” Is it any wonder legislation aimed at curbing the excesses of organized labor is stuck in his committee?

Simply put while Republicans are the governing majority in Harrisburg conservatives and taxpayers remain in the minority. That is why the upcoming primary election is so important. It is no longer good enough to simply return Republicans to office because the alternative is worse. Primary elections are held for a reason. Primaries are where the battle for the heart and soul of the party is fought. Incumbent Republicans who take money from labor unions are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

With Pennsylvania’s primary election now just weeks away voters should take the time to find out whether their elected representative stands with the unions or with the taxpayers. If only a few incumbents lose because they sided with the special interests rather than the public interest, then the culture of state government will begin to change. And change must come soon. Because if it does not, that simmering conservative anger will boil over when the spotlight returns to state government in 2014.

Lowman S. Henry is chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute for Public Policy Research Inc. in Harrisburg and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His email address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org

Cowardice in PA

In early February, I wrote to my local township tax collector complaining about a 13% increase in local school taxes, an 80% increase in township debt service taxes, and a 17% increase in county RE taxes. I asked the tax collector (who obviously has no role in setting rates but is only responsible for collecting the revenue) to pass my concerns on to the township Commissioners and School Board just to see if I got any response. I copied my Ward Commissioner, my three County Commissioners, my State Representative, State Senator, and Gov. Corbett's office.

The responses, or lack of same, were predictable and included: an invitation extended by the Tax Collector to run for Republican Committee Person to represent my ward, no response from the Township Commissioners, School Board, County Commissioners or Governor's Office, an email from the Democrat commissioner representing my ward who quite naturally blamed the Republican dominated township commissioners who are and have been an "old boys club fiefdom" for over 20 years, much like the cross-filed school board members who are more interested in the business connections they develop and nurture while on the board, than on any real representation of the local citizenry. My Republican State Rep. didn't have the gumption to respond to me in writing, rather he had his secretary leave a message on my answering machine thanking me for the email and insisting that her boss remembered me from my previous political activism surrounding "fiscal responsibility" issues some 20 years ago. My Republican State Senator did have the courtesy to respond with a "cut and paste job" of paragraphs lifted from previous constituent newsletters highlighting legislation either introduced, co-sponsored, or voted for that merely nips around the edges of the spending problems and fiscal irresponsibility I see at all levels of government, i.e. "unfunded mandates" and antiquated laws that restrict the "free market" and prevent competition by the non politically connected private sector businesses that could serve the taxpayers at a significantly lower cost than municipal employees.

The problem as I see it is relatively straightforward. In PA we have only one political party: the Big Government party (government of, by and for the political class). it is constituted of liberal Democrats primarily from the cities of Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh and increasingly of the nearby suburbs where former city residents have fled the very problems like crime and joblessness created and exacerbated by the big government policies of high taxes and even higher spending. Sadly, these same folks can't connect two adjacent dots, and have brought their ill-informed urban political views with them. The big city politicos have only one goal: fleece the remainder of the state's taxpayers for every dollar they can to feather the nest of local supporters: buying their votes with the dollars of others. The remainder of the state is dominated by "Republicans In Name Only." Their goal is simply to get reelected and retain their majorities in the House and Senate so as to retain control of Committee Chairmanships and control the purse-strings. Once again, it is the extension of charity with other people's money. Both the Left and Right wings of this predatory bird are happy to accept campaign contributions from teachers unions, municipal workers unions, trade unions, and the legal community from which most of them were spawned. Local trade unions benefit due to antiquated laws requiring that only union contractors be used on all State, Municipal, and School District construction jobs. Lawyers, who are in constant search of new classes of "victims" benefit when laws restricting medical malpractice, or other classes of Tort are not reformed via a "loser pays," or damage cap legislation. Lawyers, who are an inextricable part of the political class, along with many Judges, are professional redistributionists in search of "social justice," not "blind justice."

Part two of the problem in PA is the utter unwillingness of the members of the political class to exhibit any real courage of convictions in support of taxpayer issues that would truly reform "business as usual" which is only beneficial to the interest groups previously mentioned. The professional politicians have made entire careers out of pandering to the connected contributors be they big labor, or big business. This , naturally, is to the detriment of the middle-class private sector worker who pays the bills that buys the slop in the public trough from which the gluttons feast.

Pennsylvania has a disease. One of its symptoms was highlighted in the June 2011 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "Rich States, Poor States" report that ranked PA 46th in economic performance, 43rd in economic competitiveness, and 41st in outmigration.

Some simple, yet courageous reforms could turn the Commonwealth around rapidly. Pass legislation at least as broad as that in Wisconsin or Indiana: free teachers to decide for themselves whether or not to join a union. Insist, on a personal contributions by all municipal, state, and school district employees towards their health care and pension funds that are comparable to expected contributions by employees in the private sector. It is high time that public sector employees were introduced to the real world where employees earn less than their employers (in this case - the taxpayers). Repeal Act 195 of 1970 which granted the right of Public School teachers to strike. A teachers' strike is the legislatively sanctioned extortion of taxpayers in a particular school district. Public support of HB 1369 and HB 2092 together called the "Strike Free Education Act" would help add PA to the list of thirty seven other states who ban teacher strikes. Since there are more teacher strikes in PA than in any other of the remaining thirteen states that permit them, there is no reason that an informed public shouldn't support these bills.

Another common sense reform would be to repeal the antiquated "Prevailing Wage" Act of 1961. This Act insists on only union contractors and "prevailing wages" on all publicly funded construction projects above a ridiculously low non-inflation adjusted figure of $18,500. This figure was only recently increased from the original $10,000 level first set into the act in 1961. This was of course a time when you could buy a new house for $10,000. How many new gymnasiums, or Olympic sized Public High school swimming pools can you build for $18,500? This arcane law which even in its amended form touted by my State Senator, adds at minimum an 11% premium to each and every public sector construction project, and thus to the debt service and tax rates of the affected community. Additionally, according to Michigan's Mackinac Center, when measuring the value added for each construction dollar, construction workers in market wage states are 6.3% more productive than in prevailing wage states. Having worked on both types of construction sites over the years, and as the son of a lifelong teamster, and former teamster myself, I can attest to the ratio of shovel holders to actual laborers laboring.

Both of these simple but politically courageous positions are long overdue in a state that is mostly stagnant. They are "free market" and "free people" solutions. Personally, I would go one step further and add PA to the 23 other states that are "Right to Work" states. In states like Virginia and Texas the economies are booming and unemployment is at half the National and PA rates. Also, the cost of living is typically lower in free market states. In fact, according to a 2011 report by the National Institute for Labor Relations: "Cost of Living-Adjusted Compensation per Private Sector Employee (2010)" was $56,575 in Free Market States vs. $55,420 in Forced Unionism States." And, due to the earlier date of "Tax Freedom Day" in free market states, the "Cost of Living-Adjusted Per Capita Disposable Personal Income (2010)" was $35,643 in Free Market States vs. only $33,762 in "Closed Shop" States. Lastly, the "Growth in Real Manufacturing GDP between 2000-2010" was 18.6% in Free Market States vs. only 8.3% in Forced Unionism States. Therfore, if more higher paying manufacturing jobs is what we need across America, then National "Right to Work" is the way to grow them.

Sadly, pending the outcome of the immanent recall election of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a true taxpayer advocate and friend of free markets and the private sector taxpayer, I see little hope of real reform in Harrisburg, our counties, or our townships. Perhaps if Walkers efforts to create sustainable budgets and institute common sense reforms is vindicated by the voters despite the millions of out of state big labor dollars flowing across Wisconsin's borders to preserve labor's grip on power, the political class in PA from the Governor's mansion on down will begin to see that reform is possible and the regular folks will stand up for politicians courageous enough to do the rational thing for once.

I remain skeptical however in view of the manner in which the Big Government RINO party bosses selected its endorsed US Senate candidate: not from the bottom up, but from the top down. It was just another example of political class elitism.

But America is still the land of dreamers, innovators, doers, and inventors. From this land where the "pursuit of happiness" is enshrined in our founding documents, a concept unique in all the world, I am hopeful that there are still enough patriots left willing to do the heavy and unpopular work, take the personal and professional risks necessary to save not only our Commonwealth, but also our Country from the diseases of complacency and dependency.

Apr 3, 2012

Rick Geist vs John McGinnis: Perception Becomes Reality In The PA 79th Legislative District Race

Home of Robert K. Kutz, Jr., President of the Blair-Bedford Central Labor Council a chapter of the National AFL-CIO a pro union organization.
I have been following closely the Pennsylvania 79th legislative district republican primary race between long time State Representative Rick Geist and challenger John McGinnis, which just happens to be right in my neck of the woods here in Altoona. This has been a heated race thus far between a local Tea Party upstart, John McGinnis, and one of Harrisburg's most powerful state lawmakers, Rick Geist, who is currently serving out his 17th consecutive two-year term in the state legislature.

Lately here in the 79th legislative district I have noticed a lot of Rick Geist yard signs popping up everywhere. Which isn't uncommon considering the primary election is April 24th. But on my way home from work today, this particular house caught my attention. The picture above is the home of Robert K. Kutz Jr. the current President of the Blair-Bedford Central Labor Council a local pro union organization.

I know Bob Kutz from volunteering at various community service events throughout the years and I have nothing against him personally, but I just couldn't help notice that he has a re-elect Rick Geist sign infront of his house.

It's Union YES for Geist!

This just struck me as quite odd. I guess the world of politics has a way of making strange bedfellows. A local union leader supporting a self proclaimed conservative for re-election? Mmm. Something just doesn't add up here folks.

The general perception in conservatives circles is that Representative Rick Geist has been secretly pro union during his long stint in Harrisburg. Something that raises red flags with conservative voters like myself. Infact, many local union leaders including Mr. Kutz himself will tell you openly that Rick Geist has been a friend of local union organizations over the years.

Now this is troubling, if you are a conservative who desperately believes that Pennsylvania needs pass Right-to-Work legislation and scrap the current Prevailing Wage laws that only benefit big union labor.

Currently state agencies, local governments, and local school districts continue to struggle to keep their operating budgets in the black during difficult economic times while providing essential services. Add the additional costs of Prevailing Wage law projects and you get the picture. Pennsylvania taxpayers are simply at their breaking point and can no longer afford to pay double the cost for public works projects.

In this race Geist has been silent on his support for Right-To-Work legislation and to my knowledge has never made a public statement on the matter either way something his challenger John McGinnis quickly points out every chance he gets.

Geist's lack of position would naturally lead conservative voters to believe that he does have some sympathy for unions and the prevailing wage. Add in the fact that local union leaders are putting up yard signs to help him get re-elected we have to assume that the perception has become the reality Mr. Geist.

For more information on John McGinnis's candidacy please visit www.mcginnis2012.com.