Their view: Legislature should look to compromise not gaming revenue

October 29th, 2017 6:23 pm

Place your bets and pull the lever, spin the wheel, pick your numbers or deal the cards.

Your choice of gambling venues has become irrelevant. The safest bet in Pennsylvania is not in the casinos, lottery cards, pony tracks or any other odds-making opportunity. If you want the lock of locks, bet on this every time:

Harrisburg will always dodge responsibility for balancing its own budget.

Our oversized and over-compensated state legislature no longer even bothers with the messy law-writing process known as “sausage making.” When it comes to the annual budget, lawmakers just put out a sign saying “we owe you sausage … someday.”

This year it took nearly four months for the legislature to figure out how to pay for a spending plan passed June 30, and despite all the time allegedly sifting through ideas they sent Gov. Tom Wolf a wing and a prayer, or more exactly an IOU and a pair of dice.

If you pitched their proposal as the plot for a government-based sitcom (“Spin City” of old, say, or “The Mayor” this season), political pros and tyros alike almost surely would have dismissed it as too fake to be funny. Yet here it is.

Need to cover a $2 billion shortfall? Borrow and gamble.

Seriously, that’s their solution:

1) Expand legalized gambling to truck stops, “mini casinos” and online outlets in hopes of raising $200 million this fiscal year and, um, something less after that.

2) Borrow about $1.5 million against money expected from future payments on a 1998 settlement with tobacco companies. Sure, that money was earmarked for health-care costs, but that’s chasm we can cough across when we come to it.

Bluntly, the scheme is staggeringly lazy, fiscally irresponsible and unlikely to succeed. It increases risks of feeding and creating gambling addictions under the guise of claiming “they are already gambling anyway.” And it papers over what has become a chronic budgetary shortfall that has already resulted in repeated downgrades of the state’s credit rating, a reality that increases the cost of any state borrowing — a price passed on to taxpayers.

Most egregiously, it involves a massive and complex bill passed not with deliberations and due review but with desperate urgency to simply sweep the problem under the rug. Sadly, this has become the de facto device for governing in a hyper-partisan world, both in Harrisburg and Washington.

Nationally, the GOP blitzkrieg to cram complex and far-reaching tax reform through the house and senate in the next two months is abhorrent, even if the goal may be noble. It follows the failed attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with an equal lack of bipartisanship or due diligence. And saying the other party did something similar is no defense.

Governing by self-inflicted crisis is not governing at all. It is time for politics at all levels to return to bipartisan compromise. The state legislature’s cowardly answer to a structural deficit is simply further proof.

– Times Leader