Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Late Pennsylvania Budget

Pennsylvania has a new budget, and it’s only 101 days late! It’s the last state budget in the country to be completed! What a distinction.
The geniuses that represent us in Harrisburg knew a year ago that the budget was required by law to be complete by June 30; actually they know it’s due by that date every year. At the speed with which they operate, they should immediately start on the one that’s due June 30, 2010.
Twice during the deliberations they had an agreement between the factions, and both times the agreement was abrogated.
I understand that each representative needs to adhere to his principles – they are what got him elected. By  the same token, he needs to set some priorities. If people are hurting, do you bend your principles a bit? At what point does standing by your principles become stubborn and shortsighted? How do you reconcile principles with priorities?
The interesting thing is that Pennsylvania has the largest legislature of any state, but the deliberations are conducted by only a handful of the representatives. The rest sit in the capitol day after day in the event they need to cast a vote. Even though their presence is not needed, they also collect per diem for doing nothing.
I think these proceedings are a microcosm for the way our society is becoming. In times past reasonable men could sit down together and discuss their differences, but now it seems that people who disagree with one another are enemies. In Harrisburg representatives on both sides of the aisle just dug in their heels and refused to budge. It was as if the usual disagreement between helping people and cutting costs was stepped up a notch or two.
I can recall arguments between intelligent people who disagreed on a subject, and eventually they came to some sort of a compromise. It may not have been perfect for either side, but at least it was something that both sides could live with. But the shouting and name calling in today’s public meetings are another thing altogether – a graphic illustration of heat generation with no light whatsoever. They don’t even seem to hear each other.
         Surely the founding fathers did not mean for problems to be solved in this manner. We can do better. If we don’t, we may as well learn to speak Chinese.

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