I wouldn’t call it greed. I would say self-preservation is the number one motivation in Harrisburg and it is why I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we do need some type of legislative term limits.  I know there are problems with term limits, but I think you have got to eliminate a concept that this is a lifetime job and I’ve got to protect my lifetime job.”  So says Governor Ed Rendell in a conversation with me about the legislature.  The Governor had a few things to say to me about the Pennsylvania General Assembly, the tobacco industry and the Phillies.

Should the Phillies pay for a parade if they win the World Series?  Ed Rendell says, “I think the Phils could share those costs like they did last year, but I also think the city should kick in a little bit because remember the city’s gained a significant increase in their amusement tax for every single game that is played.”  He points to the 2 games with the Colorado Rockies, 3 with the Dodgers and potentially 3 with the Yankees.
Pennsylvania has one of only 4 full-time legislatures in the U.S. I said to him, “We’re not getting our money’s worth.”  The Governor responded, “No, there’s no question.”…”Though a lot of the legislators do good constituent work.”  So why does all the self-preservation and corruption go on?  “The reason this stuff goes on is because people don’t generally pay attention.” 
Rendell again called the 101 day budget delay “reprehensible” and again apologized for it, but he clearly the blames the legislative mindset of today for most of the trouble.  “This incredible polarization that’s occurred in politics today, where it’s all about getting over the other side.”  And part of it on the absence, no longer alive or in office, of consensus building veteran legislators.  “We don’t have people like Matt Ryan, Joe Loeper or Leroy Irvis leading the legislature anymore.”  The Governor continues, “It’s far too partisan. That’s number 1. Number 2, too many legislators when they’re running for office take a no tax pledge…that’s crazy.  There’s good government spending and there’s bad government spending.”   He counts his increases in education  infrastructure and health care spending as examples of the good.
Rendell warns wile there will likely be no budget crisis in the remainder of his term, he is concerned about 2012 and that the legislature rejected his budget proposal this year that would have prevented a crisis or softened the blow that could come that year when the stimulus money is gone and pension obligations explode.
I asked Ed Rendell, “It says something doesn’t it, that Pennsylvania is the only state not to tax smokeless tobacco?”  Says the Governor, “It does say something.”  “No excuse.”  And,  “You look at the sales tax exemptions and virutally every one of them is there because some special interest group hired a powerful lobbyist who convinced the legislature to do that.”
I asked him if intends to kick some derrier in the remainder of his time in office?  “Oh, yeah,” says the Governor, who pointed to ongoing major issues of climate change, alternative energy, the economy, education and, he hopes, helping the federal government implement health care reform.
More on my conversation with the Governor later.

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