Greetings from Pennsylvania, the land of the Alt Budget.
Unable to pass a balanced budget during the three years they’ve controlled both chambers of the Legislature, our Republican leaders have announced a new, typically ingenious plan in which they will pass a patently “unbalanced budget” – in direct violation of the Commonwealth’s own Constitution – then offset the billion-and-a-half funding gap by failing to disperse the funds intended for our colleges and universities.
I’m not certain who, specifically, came up with that brilliant idea.
(What amazes me is that they would freely admit their intent.)
But if you are old enough to recall the Sixties “Beach Party” movies starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, I’m sure the image of moronic biker Harvey Lembeck pointing at his head and saying, “Genius time!” comes to mind.
And I’m relatively certain that if you asked that genius, “Isn’t allocating funds for something and failing to spend them to cover a deficit the same thing as allocating them for one thing and spending them on another?”
He, (I’m completely certain it was a man) would stare at you blankly and say, “Huh?”
The Pennsylvania Legislature has had things its own way for so long, what were once rules are now suggestions.
Of course, our Legislature could have passed a small and much-needed tax increase to offset federal funding gaps and keep the budget balanced – which is, basically, the only thing we pay them to do.
But they promised Grover Norquist they wouldn’t do it.
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So, we face next week’s budget vote with little concern for what they pass or how they pass it – fully understanding that, under their interpretation of the “suggestions” of law, not a single penny they allot for anything needs to actually be spent on it.
One might be tempted to jump to the conclusion that a Legislator whose only purpose is passing a budget – who doesn’t pass a budget – might pay with his job.
Or, at least, he should expect to face competitive opposition from another candidate willing to actually perform the functions of his employment in the next election.
But, sadly, our incumbents are all but unassailable.
Perhaps they would be concerned they might be shortly hitting the job market with no discernable skills if the majority of their districts weren’t so twisted by gerrymandering that the longest-serving of them can only be removed by an act of God.
In light of the seemingly conspiratorial dysfunction of both parties, an informed voter might be tempted to conclude voting for a third party is the best option.
Unfortunately, we don’t have that choice in Pennsylvania.
Our requirements for people who aren’t D’s or R’s to get their names on the ballot are so heinously strict – and so many signatures are required – almost no one tries.
You might suggest we should amend our Constitution through a referendum to ensure all candidates have equal access to the ballot.
Unfortunately, the only people who can amend the PA Constitutions are the PA Legislators who have chosen, for three funding cycles, to ignore it.
We, in Pennsylvania – at least those of us who understand what has happened to our Democracy – have recognized for some time that we are imprisoned by the two-party system.
And the results of the last Presidential Election seem to indicate America isn’t far behind.
And “they” are going to jeopardize the ability of the Pennsylvania government to operate in the interest of its citizens rather than risk the scorn of some asshole facilitator with a big mailing list to whom they vowed, “No new taxes!” in 2006.
We’ve always been ahead of the game in PA.
I guess that’s why we call ourselves the Keystone State.
We were polluting the air and water with carbon emissions from our coal-fired steel factories while your ancestors were still cleaning the horse poop off their buggies.
When the American steel industry collapsed, creating a strange new underclass that (insert gasp) wasn’t black, we developed the system of de facto segregation that continues to divide the nation’s proletarian class to this day; creating tiny pockets of diversity in the urban corners amidst a sea of white everywhere else.
We had a Governor who was too stupid to hold a press conference way before America had a President of that ilk.
The federal budgetary process is almost upon us.
Get ready, America.