"What's black and white and read all over?"

Thursday, July 06, 2006
Posted 11:56 PM by

Sing along with New Jersey

It's the third workday/seventh real day of New Jersey's shut down of government offices because it didn't pass a budget before July 1. So sing along with me to the tune of the "12 days of Christmas":

On the third day of New Jersey's budget impasse, the governor gave to thee:

12 casinos closing

11-hour legislative sessions

10 pissed off state workers

9 empty beaches

8 minute soundbites

7 senators sneering

6 reporters laughing

5 missed daily lottery drawings

4 no particular reason

3 unless they tax it

2 vocal dissenters

And 1 speech a day to an angry General Assembly.

The Daily Rant will be taking a break until next week. Hopefully, this mess will be resolved by the time I come back. Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Posted 11:24 PM by

Shoofly does bother me

Pennsylvania's new bumper sticker is another giant step backward.It won't exactly make major headlines tomorrow, but Pennsylvania has a new bumper sticker entitled "I break for Shoofly Pie."

While I guess it's supposed to honor the Pennsylvania Dutch or the Amish, I think a more fitting tribute would have been for the state House of Representatives not to have passed a bill last week declaring English the official state language.

I've been through much of the state, and let me tell you, I'm not so sure what they're speaking actually qualifies.

In fact, a better bumper sticker might have been "Pa.: We speak English here. Sort of." I'm sure the guys at Geno's steaks in South Philly would be glad to distribute it wid or widout a hoagie (For you folks in western Pa., a hero or sub.)

I'm not a big fan of new bumper stickers or slogans anyway. I say if it ain't broke, don't fix it. What the heck was so wrong with, "You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania"? The band New Found Glory even recorded a song with that title.

Sure, it was a bit vague, but that was its charm

Unless, of course, you lived in New Jersey or Ohio and had a bumper sticker slapped on your car. In that case, I'm pretty sure your spouse and a divorce lawyer would like to meet that "friend."

But at least people still remember it.

Unlike the state slogan Pennsylvania adopted 10 years ago, "Pennsylvania memories (really do) last a lifetime."

The memories here may be unforgettable (alzheimer's not withstanding), but the recent slogans sure aren't.

Do you even know that the current one, which was adopted two years ago, is "State of Independence"?

The judges of a state-wide contest showed little independent thought.

I ask what good is a slogan or a bumper sticker - short of employing the folks at the Pennsylvania Tourism Office - if nobody cares for it or about it?

Besides, have you ever eaten shoofly pie? It's disgusting.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Posted 11:35 PM by

Is N.J. budget impasse a sign of Pa.'s future?

Will similar budget problems eventually force Pennsylvania to approve full fledged casino gambling?

How long will it take for slots parlors to become full casinos in Pennsylvania? One slots hopeful, Louis DeNaples, has predicted less than two years.With a pension crisis looming on the horizon, not to mention an underfunded Medicaid program and a state Legislature that doesn't know the meaning of belt-tightening, is Pennsylvania heading down the same path that got New Jersey in trouble?

A budget stalemate between Gov. Jon Corzine and the General Assembly will close Atlantic City's casinos tomorrow along with state beaches during one of the busiest periods of the summer.

John Mooney, Atlantic City's police chief, went so far as to call the shutdown a "state-created disaster."

The casino-hotels, which employ about 46,000 people and attract millions of gamblers and vacationers every year, will remain open. But the blackjack tables, roulette wheels, slot machines and horse racing books will go silent beginning at 8 a.m., barring a last-minute reprieve from the courts or state budget negotiators in Trenton, the Associated Press reports.

That's because among the state employees furloughed are the casino inspectors who keep tabs on the collection, counting and certification of the money won by the 12 gambling halls.

The casinos pump about $1.3 million a day into state coffers through an 8 percent gambling tax.

Pennsylvania expects to rake in $1 billion a year from 14 slots parlors and has already spent the money even though winners of the one-time-only licenses have yet to be announced.

How long will it be until Pennsylvania's near $1 billion surplus from last year's 25 billion budget is eaten away at the rate our lawmakers spend?

And once the state dips into the red, I can already forsee some legislative leaders holding the state hostage to expand the slots parlors into full fledged casinos.


Monday, July 03, 2006
Posted 8:56 PM by

Expect fireworks in New Jersey tomorrow

New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine called back state lawmakers to Trenton for the July 4th holiday to hammer out a budget.A billionaire freshman governor who promised fiscal reforms. A free-spending Legislature entrenched in cronyism. A federal holiday.

All three will combine tomorrow in Trenton when New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine forces the General Assembly back to the Capital to come up with a state budget that isn't $5 billion in the red.

Shake well. Strike an ordinary match (just don't put it to a cigarette indoors).


Corzine repeatedly complained to reporters today that lawmakers ignored the budget recommendations - including a 1 percent increase in the state's sales tax - he gave them more than 100 days ago, but have been slow to develop any of their own.

With no spending plan on the horizon, and state services starting to shut down, Corzine said he took no pleasure at having to call lawmakers back to work tomorrow at 9 a.m. for a special session.

"It's not a game," he said.

With the July 1 budget deadline passed, New Jersey's lottery ticket sales and road construction have halted, courts are closed and more than half the state work force is off the job.

And the quality of life in the Garden State improved. (Just kidding.)

Worse, Atlantic City casinos, which require state monitors to operate, may be forced to stop raking in the loot in two days for the first time in 28 years. They along with state parks, historic sites and beaches could also close Wednesday if the impasse isn't broken.

"I will try to speak explicitly about a compromise that I hope people will find is reasonable," Corzine told reporters.

Unfortunately for Corzine, it's not one he worked out.

Instead, Senate President and former Gov. Richard J. Codey using half the $1.1 billion that would be raised by Corzine's sales tax increase to ease the state's highest-in-the-nation property taxes.

However, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts, D-Camden, has rejected the idea.

"The sales tax in its entirety needs to be dedicated to property tax relief," Roberts said.

That prompted reporters to ask Corzine if he was pushing for the Roberts' removal as speaker.

If such an effort exists, Corzine said he's not behind it.


Sunday, July 02, 2006
Posted 11:29 PM by

Fumo held up Pa. budget, but for a good cause

State Senator Vince Fumo, D-Philadelphia, held up passage of the 2006-07 in hopes of eliminating part of the state's slots law which lets legislator own up to 1 percent of a casino.Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell signed a 26.1 million budget today only two days late after Democratic senators, led by Philly's Vince Fumo, held up the process to push for reform of the state law legalizing slot machines.

While the Fumo-led faction initially shot down the budget and delayed another vote for two hours early Sunday, I don't think the Vince of Darkness deserves any criticism for it - nor the loss of 20 percent of his salary as blogger PSoTD suggested Saturday.

Fumo, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, was trying to eliminate a provision in the slots law that lets each lawmaker own up to 1 percent in a casino. He also wanted to strip Philly leaders of the power to approve locations for slot parlors.

"Since I got us into this mess, I want to try and figure a way out of it," Fumo told the Inquirer.

Some Republicans held out too, hoping to eliminate a provision that requires slot machine suppliers - politically favored middlemen - and let the state's 14 slots parlors buy their machines directly from manufacturers.

Rendell favors the suppliers, claiming it will help create jobs, and vetoed a previous attempt at reforming the slots law on Nov. 30, 2004.

The budget does not raise taxes, but the 5.8 percent increase, or about $1.4 billion, is one of the largest increases in the past decade, the Associated Press reports.

Thanks to a large surplus, the spending plan expands the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for needy families and increased basic education subsidies for public schools by almost 6 percent to $4.8 billion.

The increase in school funding did not require a corresponding drop in local property taxes, even though Rendell just signed a tax reform law last week.

The biggest increase by percentage went to the Regional Development Initiatives program, an obscure grant system administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development but controlled by legislative leaders, the Inquirer reported today. It increased from $900,000 last year to $19.4 million this year.

Matthew J. Brouillette, president of the conservative think tank Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, called the budget "pork-laden, self-serving" as well as "fiscally irresponsible, economically ignorant, and incredibly hypocritical."

"... It also sets the stage for major tax increases in the near future," Brouillette claimed.

"The governor said, 'Send me a 2.9 percent budget. Send it,'" Fumo told the Associated Press. "There was no mood (in the Legislature) to do that."

The Senate passed the budget bill 28-21, following the 130-68 House approval on Saturday.

To see budget highlights, click here. For a more in-depth look at the budget, click here.


This Week's Rants | The Daily Rant Archives

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.