Analysis: The New Normal?

wolf-budget addressWe’re approaching Governor Tom Wolf’s one year anniversary in office.

Before he took the oath, I examined if he could be effective in Harrisburg and quoted the former President John Adams’ assertion that “I am determined to control events, not be controlled by them”.

It would surely be fair to say Gov. Wolf has been controlled by events.

The prime example of this is the lack of a full budget agreement. The stalemate is widely viewed as the Governor’s major failure during his first year in office and proof that he is having an extraordinary difficult time adjusting to the job.

In reality, however, our budget situation is not the product of a him or even the group of individuals who run the state legislature. Rather our situation is a reflection of the sentiments of the public at large and the peculiar structure of our government.

Most commentators, and even most citizens, believe that it is imperative that the Governor and the state legislature get a deal done. They believe the lack of compromise is the cause of all problems and the root of the public’s anger.

But what if that isn’t the case at all?

In a recent piece from Chris Palmer and Angela Couloumbis of the Inquirer, they quote one of Wolf’s friends who notes that the Governor is an excellent chess player. Yet what no recognizes is that the GOP legislative majority is playing checkers and it makes perfect sense for them to do so.

The Governor has a statewide constituency, which generally leans Democratic, made up of many moving pieces concerned with several different issues. On the other hand, the Republican majority mostly consists of small communities in rural districts, which are laser-focused on defending a few core principles.

Since Pennsylvania is a large state with a considerable but compact population, divided government seems to be our destiny for quite some time.

So what incentive do the officials in Harrisburg have to actually reach a deal?

The Governor and his fellow Democrats want new taxes to pay for social spending while Republicans are strictly opposed to any additional taxation. Additionally, any chance that the legislative wheels could be oiled with earmarks (or liquor) like in the past is impossible in today’s media landscape.

Therefore, the likelihood of a budget deal are no better this year than they were last year.

Is this such a catastrophe? Not necessarily.

Remember, in D.C. we went years without a proper budget. Republicans even made this a campaign issue for awhile. Eventually, they pushed the Congress to pass a budget but in doing so spent political capital on a process issue when it could’ve better been used on policy.

Our fiscal future will likely resemble Washington, where the concept of yearly budgets has faded away and government funding becomes a continually debated legislative issue. So far the officials in D.C. have been mostly successful in keeping the lights on (the key word there is mostly).

This is probably not a welcome development for Pennsylvanians, but it nonetheless appears to be our new reality.

January 18th, 2016 | Posted in Editorial, Features, Front Page Stories, Governor, Harrisburg, Top Stories | 17 Comments

17 thoughts on “Analysis: The New Normal?”

  1. Fre Savagery says:

    We can all pay higher Personal Income Tax ($87 a year for the average PA.res.) or some of us can pay even more ridiculous property taxes causing some to have to sell their home. Republican think they’re fooling all of us with the smoke & mirrors budgets. They’re fooling not a soul.

  2. Exactly says:

    Great analysis Nick. This is right on the money. We have two sides that are at opposite ends of the political spectrum and no incentive for either side to meet in the middle. Wolf has made numerous rookie mistakes along the way though. He should have blue-line vetoed the initial budget he was spent to get the money flowing. His action in December was almost 6 months late. And if he wanted to get a budget done when he finally did get around to blue-lining the budget, he should have blue-lined the salaries of legislators. As it stands now, there is no impetus to get a budget done until after the primary election at the earliest. Because no Republican is going to vote for a tax hike before the primary election.

  3. Wolfpack says:

    Pa the Commonwealth of waste of tax dollars. Sour grapes lives in fairyland. The polls showed a dead skunk could have beat Corbett. Penn State Voters got even. Wolf had no political knowledge, Wolf still has no political knowledge. He screws all that didn’t support him. Even his own party hates him. He sits on his mountain with his pack and plots how to screw everyone.

  4. HaHaHa says:

    Observer – Would love to hear your thoughts on this article:

    PA Corruption Network’s Playbook

    The similarities between the prosecution of Kathleen Kane and of the PSU 3 reveal the “playbook” of Pennsylvania’s corruption network.

    The cases of current Pennsylvania Attorney General (AG) Kathleen Kane and that of former Penn State University (PSU) officials (i.e., the PSU 3) are connected by a common thread.
    A group of the Commonwealth’s attorneys, judges, political operatives, and their media accomplices — hereafter referred to as the “network” — used trumped up charges, purposely misinterpreted laws, and oversold highly dubious evidence to convict these individuals in the court of public opinion.

    After examining the timelines and evidence of these cases, it appears that the network has a well defined playbook for taking out its targets and it works like this:

    1. Individuals within the network fear their own heinous acts may be exposed and publicly accuse their opponents of crimes as a means of deflecting attention away from themselves.
    2. The network next co-opts individuals close to the target(s) –insiders — to assist in setting up the target(s) to be charged with perjury and other crimes.
    3. After the insiders have sufficiently undermined the targets (using various means of deception), the network’s attorneys and/or judges leak damaging information about the targets to the media.
    4. The media arm of the network uses the information in an attempt to compromise the targets or to promote guilt by association in the press.
    5. At the conclusion of this “framing,” that was mislabeled as a criminal investigation, attorneys go public with charging documents that allege crimes based on misinterpretations of the laws and that are chocked full of questionable testimony from unreliable witnesses, completely illogical scenarios, and dubious evidence. Perjury charges are standard in order to publicly smear the defendants as being dishonest individuals while attempting to pump up the veracity of the Commonwealth’s lousy witnesses (who would be eviscerated at an actual trial).
    6. The media accomplices ignore the illegal application of relevant laws, that the charging documents are illogical, the lousy witnesses, and the highly questionable evidence in order to continue treating the allegations as facts and even go as far as to allege the target committed crimes for which he or she has not been charged.
    7. The public falls for the deception and believes the targets are guilty of everything and are corrupt individuals — whether they have been charged with a crime or not. Citizen activists, public officials, and other groups and individuals — who are beneficiaries of the corrupt network — jump on the media bandwagon to publicly condemn the targets.
    8. Witting and/or unwitting employers recommend the targets be relieved of their duties or actually do so through employment actions — before anything is proven and without conducting a legitimate legal review.
    9. When legal proceedings in the cases reveal the false and questionable testimony put forth in the charging documents and the dubious evidence used in the case, the network’s media arm ignores the information and continues to slant the reports so the public continues to assume the targets are guilty.
    10. The legal issues from the misapplications of the laws result in appeals to the network’s judges, who refused to rule on simple matters and keep the trials on permanent hold. If the cases make it to trial, the targets will be convicted of lesser crimes — that the media will treat like crimes of the century.

    The network’s playbook achieves the goal of protecting its corrupt dealings and/or heinous crimes by never legally proving, but publicly scapegoating the targets in a media firestorm that is high in supposition and light on facts.

    To wit: the grand jury and Montgomery County DA Risa Ferman did not find the evidence to charge AG Kane with directly leaking grand grand jury information in the Mondesire case, but you wouldn’t know that if you just read the news headlines.

    Instead, they charged her with perjury (part of the playbook), lesser crimes, and for orchestrating the leaks, the latter of which Ferman and others know can’t be proven.
    Then again, the network’s playbook doesn’t include actually prosecuting the case.

    In the following weeks, the dubious evidence used in Kane’s case will be exposed, as will the details showing how the network of attorney, judges, and media worked together in an attempt to prevent AG Kathleen Kane from breaking PA’s chain of corruption.

  5. Lily says:

    I am a democrat but do not support Wolf as his only solution is to raise taxes. Unfortunately, my job puts me in contact with state workers routinely and find it appalling the amount and degree of waste, abuse and incompetence. Step one, before we raise any taxes on anyone is for downsizing of the waste.

  6. Isaac L. says:

    So let’s say the sour grapes talking point that Wolf only won because he wasn’t Corbett is true. Poll after poll showed education was a top priority for voters and Corbett lost largely on his failures on education (real or perceived is irrelevant to this point). Wolf contrasted himself by making education a central plank of his platform. That’s still a mandate.

    Now let’s leave fantasyland and go back to Pennsylvania where Democrats enjoy a one million voter registration advantage and Independents number around 680,000. You can’t gerrymander statewide elections. Will there ever be another Republican governor? That seems likely, especially since we vote in mid-terms and national trends make it likely that the President will be a Democrat, and mid-term fatigue tends to hurt the President’s party. But those same national trends are reflected locally, and as long they continue, it becomes more and more likely that His (or Her!) Excellency the Governor will be a Democrat.

    Unless the Republican Party does some serious soul searching and rebuilds bridges to women and rapidly growing minority communities, all of these histrionics will be a perverse swan song, accelerating their path to irrelevancy.

  7. WesternPAPete says:

    This obviously will come as a surprise to Observer, but for many of us, our state representatives are doing their jobs…preventing Wolf from enacting his job-killing tax increases.

  8. Peter Madaus says:

    I’ve been calling it the “new normal” for months!

  9. Observer says:

    Susan is a great example everyone of why we need to invest more in education… so the kids don’t end up like her. Repeating DUMBED DOWN slogans won’t provide solutions. Tell your state reps to do their job and not run away on vacation.

  10. Wolfpack says:

    Wolf truly believes he beat Corbett. His Wolfpack tells him so.
    Does anyone know how many Wolfpack PAC are now open out there?? Again he just hides other peoples money in different accounts OPM=WOLF

  11. Susan says:

    The new normal will benefit Pennsylvanians, as what the HUNGRY “FOR YOUR TAXPAYER DOLLARS” WOLF proposes will be detrimental to the middle class. How can his massive tax increases help hard-working taxpayers and their families? What the BIG BAD WOLF is pushing is for the benefit of his master, the public employees’ unions,most notably the teachers’ union. He states he wants a massive increase in educational funding, but he proposes no accountability to accompany the funding. He also continues to lie as he did during is gubernatorial campaign that Corbett cut $1 billion dollars from educational funding. This is an outright lie (and THE BIG BAD WOLF knows this), as the $1 billion he refers to was a one-time stimulus payment from Uncle Sam. It is most unfortunate that no recall mechanism exists in PA or this atrocity of a governor would be on his way out. The WOLF is Pennsylvanians’ worst nightmare.

  12. Observer says:

    I’d like to think it’s both sides fault… It’s not. Wolf compromised and the GOP ran away twice on vacation.

    A bunch of skunks getting paid to sabotage the government.

    If anyone did that in a REAL job they’d be fired immediately.

  13. David Diano says:

    The new Ab-Normal

  14. fred says:

    Obstructing massive tax increases on working families is responsible. The problem is that the cabinet maker hasn’t figured out that he was elected because he wasn’t Tom Corbett.

  15. Wolfpack says:

    one year of what??? No budget, millions borrowed because of his failure. Jobs being filled with Wolfpack incompetency. Keep an eye on all the job changes. Leave of absentee, Moving around to different agencies, hide and seek and so the public can’t see the job games. One year of costing us millions. One year of big profit to Wolfpack buddies. He is after all a wolf.

  16. Central PA Dem says:

    And a manipulation of the redistricting process that has resulted in districts that protect incumbents and disproportionately favor Republicans. We need a state constitutional convention to create a non-partisan commission to handle redistricting, and we need to have it in place by 2020. Let’s get started now for the sake of democracy in PA!

  17. gulagPittsburgh says:

    The problem is the obstructionist GOP who lack a sense of responsibility for actual governance.

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