Here we are again.
It’s 2010. For the eighth year in a row, the Pennsylvania state budget is in trouble. After last year’s major nightmare, you’d think we’d be done with this nonsense.
You’d think that after the public outpouring of outrage, our elected officials would go out of their way to pass a budget on time this year.
You’d think that after the legal decision affirming the illegality of refusing to pay your employees (to say nothing of the untold mountains of taxpayer dollars wasted on the matter), our elected officials would stop with their partisan political grandstanding and finger-pointing.
You’d think that even if every shred of decency, common sense, and respect for their taxpayers was found conspicuously absent, our legislature wouldn’t dare yank Pennsylvanians around — again — in an election year.
But we’re not, they didn’t, they never will, and they are.
It’s May sixth, and the budget is nowhere near done. Given that the fiscal year begins July 1, this is a major problem.
Last year, 77000 state employees spent their summer months worrying about their paychecks. Some of us only had to worry about clearing out our savings accounts so that we could continue to pay for things like mortgages and food. Others had to figure out — fast — how to feed their children, meet medical expenses, keep the lights on, and keep enough gas in the car to get to work.
Even those who don’t work for the state were affected. In downtown Harrisburg — the metro area with arguably the highest concentration of state employees — restaurant owners lost significant business over the impasse. Some even closed forever. Community services were scaled back. And taxpayers found themselves on the hook for massive — and I mean $3-million-per-day massive — damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
But we don’t have to do it again.
Do you remember the 2006 midterm elections? Under the guise of a secretive midnight session, our legislators voted through a massive pay raise for themselves. Outrage immediately ensued. A handful of legislators returned their raises, but even more tried to brush off the uproar. As the months wore on, the voice of the public grew louder and louder. Fearful for their jobs, more legislators began turning against the raise. Months later, Governor Rendell repealed the raise. And still a year later, nearly two dozen would-be legislators felt the power of a betrayed public in the polls.
Unlike our General Assembly, Pennsylvania taxpayers never forget.
Our legislators are so confident that we’ll “get over it” that they actually have the audacity to flaunt their blatant disregard for us — their employers — during an election year.
Let’s put an end to that.
Contact your legislator today and remind him or her that this is an election year, that you’re a registered voter (you ARE, right?), and that you’re upset that the budget is in trouble for the nth time. Be polite, but firm. Get answers to your question. Do not accept “I sympathize” or “I feel your pain” or “I am working to resolve the matter”. You hired him or her, and he or she owes you answers. They’ve had more than enough time to prepare, and the fact that we’re here again is inexcusable.
If you don’t know who your legislator is, Project Vote Smart has a complete, easy-to-use list. Just type in your ZIP code and you’re on your way.
Last year Rendell told us “No whining”. I propose a different slogan: