A baseball game could hardly be more crucial than the Oct. 13, 1960, World Series battle between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees....
With a pension crisis looming, a gaping budget hole, a crumbling infrastructure and scores of other needs that must be met and paid for, every cent of the tax dollars we send to Harrisburg is being used urgently to meet current expenses.
Not so fast. One of the nation’s largest, most expensive and, as it turns out, most tone-deaf and arrogant state legislatures, is maintaining a formidable surplus account. It was revealed last week that lawmakers are keeping $161 million in a reserve fund that they say is there to keep them rolling in the dough in case a governor should cut off funding for the Legislature in the midst of a budget fight.
Yes, saving your pennies can be a virtue. But more than 16 billion of them?
What makes the Fort Knox-size surplus the Legislature is maintaining all the more troubling is, according to the Associated Press, there are no limits on the amount that can be maintained in this reserve fund. It was started in the 1980s, and there is no state law or internal policy on how elephantine the surplus can become.
The way this pile of cash is being used also cannot be examined by the auditor general in the way other state accounts can. Moreover, an additional $7 million was added to the surplus between June 2013 and last June, when the fiscal year ended.
How has the surplus been created? Through unspent taxpayer money that was earmarked for other expenses. Rather than putting additional money into those programs – or giving taxpayers a break – it has been shoveled into the surplus account.
The AP pointed out that “such a large and unfettered surplus is nearly unheard of in other states” and, “For years, auditors hired to report on the Legislature’s financial practices have recommended that lawmakers consider adopting a policy that establishes and monitors the appropriate amount of surplus – recommendations the Legislature has ignored.”
Some lawmakers argued the $161 million does not represent the actual size of the surplus today, following $72 million in cuts now-departed Gov. Tom Corbett made to the Legislature’s accounts. Nonetheless, putting $161 million aside for contingencies – by some estimates, $161 million would keep the Legislature afloat if a budget fight lasted for a full six months – is excessive. You would think if there was enough there for two months – or two weeks – it would focus the minds of lawmakers a little bit.
We have long argued that Pennsylvania’s Legislature is too unwieldy, that its membership could be reduced and district lines redrawn. But it is also a Legislature that is pampered and handed all manner of emoluments.
Editorial voices from newspapers around the country as compiled by the Associated Press:
The town of Boomer, W.Va. lived up to its name when 26 cars of a 109-tanker car CSX train derailed in the middle of the night, and 19 of them were engulfed in flames, shaking residents out of their sleep and producing hours of toxic fumes.
The derailment and fire were just the latest in a string of such mishaps involving rail transportation of crude oil. But the difference this time around is that the tankers involved in their derailment and fire were a newer type built to more stringent safety specifications, and supposedly less prone to rupture.
Railroad operators and governments in both the U.S. and Canada agree that the new design is the way to go, but the Feb. 16 accident shows that physics can often trump improved design.
It’s all the more reason that North America should proceed with the expansion of pipelines for crude oil transport.
Blocking the Keystone XL pipeline and similar projects makes no sense, from either a safety or policy perspective. Oil that has been extracted and sold must be transported. Both pipelines and rail lines have a role to play, but the former are simply safer.
The murder of three young adults in Chapel Hill, N.C., is not only deplorable but was probably avoidable if strong background checks had been demanded on those attempting to buy guns.
The three young people who were murdered were neighbors of Craig Hicks, a former car parts salesman who was studying to be a paralegal at a local technical community college. He had previous problems with his neighbors over parking.
Hicks, while wearing a gun on his belt, apparently had been harassing the three young people because of their appearance. To think that a person is not intimidated when he is accosted by someone carrying a gun is naive.
The National Rifle Association, which refuses to see any possible limit in an American’s right to carry a gun, has in Hicks a supporter who used his gun to browbeat and finally to allegedly murder three young people.
Every year, we see stories about high school football and basketball coaches who get in trouble because their teams run up exorbitant scores against overmatched opponents, but we don’t recall hearing about a coach getting in trouble for trying not to score, until now....
Since at least 1983, when the federal report “A Nation at Risk” painted a picture of failing public schools churning out undereducated and unprepared graduates, lawmakers and educational reformers have been endlessly toying with curriculum changes and testing regimes in the hope......
Editor’s note: This editorial incorrectly identified Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Somerset County as one of several locations to house Pennsylvania’s casinos. It instead should have listed Lady Luck Casino at Nemacolin Woodlands in Fayette County....