Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday: State of Alarm

Harrisburg could execute a hostile takeover of Pittsburgh's public pension funds:

That "really doesn't take into account the city's ability to pay," said city Finance Director Scott Kunka. The administration would rather make state takeover voluntary, and is talking with Mr. McAneny and local legislators to try to amend the legislation. (P-G, Rich Lord)

The steeper annual payment numbers are one concern, but I have to believe another part of the hesitancy is Pittsburgh not desiring to surrender its own control to an executive agency in Harrisburg. Ordinarily I don't care for turfy-parochialism, but this seems legitimate. If there's a statewide municipal pensions pool, IMVHO, it ought to be driven by a board of municipal representatives.

Why? Because Pennsylvania state government is SUB-ENCOURAGING AT THIS TIME:

A Team 4 investigation finds that the idea of a vending-machine system to sell wine in Pennsylvania grocery stores will benefit two of Gov. Ed Rendell's biggest campaign contributors. One of them is a close friend of the governor. (WTAE, Paul Van Osdol)

Are we going to be able to prove a quid-pro-quo deal was made and indict the Governor? Not on your life. Does this establish beyond any conceivable doubt that large campaign contributions influence public policy? It should. Come on already, everybody -- let's stop pretending.

BY THE WAY: Don't tease me for asking this; online databases frustrate me sometimes. I could have sworn I once read Rendell had significant ties to the electronics industry. I read it in a mainstream news article, long forgotten. If anyone can identity those electronics companies which have been generous to Rendell over the past 3-4 years, please let me know. Pet project.

More in the vein of NOT BEING ENCOURAGED:

Rendell has said he plans to run his veto pen across broad swaths of the GOP-backed spending plan, resulting in a “bridge” budget that would do little more than pay employees and vendors and keep government operating until a permanent accord is reached.

Democrats and Rendell hope that the elimination of funding for scores of programs, ranging from hospitals, school and the arts will put pressure on Republicans to negotiate. (Capitol Ideas, John L. Micek; h/t @JonDelano)

Tell me if you see the potential flaw in this scheme. Our Democratic governor is going to pass a Republican budget, then veto its spending on liberal priorities -- and this is going to put pressure on Republicans to negotiate, rather than simply enjoy a Nordquistian tiny government and make Rendell and his veto pen look like the villains.

State employees are starting to get very nervous -- not for their paychecks this time, but for the strength and survival of the programs to which they are extremely dedicated. More later.


  1. The Republican budget isn't Republican enough.

    Bunch of jagoffs

  2. Of course contributions influence policy. Nothing new there and it will never change. The real is story is when people (both left and right) will stop acting like money influences the opposition. Take a look at the Blue Dogs that are causing trouble with health care reform. The story beneath the surface is that big labor is against National health care. Most of the Blue Dogs get lots of money from health insurance companies, but they get even more from organized labor. Labor is against national health care because it takes away one of their selling points. If joining a union won't get you "good health benefits" (because you already have them) then many people would have no reason to join a union. I have had several friends high up in organized labor whisper this dirty little secret to me. Follow the votes and then follow the money.

  3. The only labor groups that are not promoting National Healthcare are those ones that are getting rich, administering benefits for the members.

    There are billions of dollars out there under the control of union officials. Why would they give up control and let "healthcare professionals" administer these funds?

    Same goes for pensions as well.

  4. There are billions of dollars out there under the control of union officials. Why would they give up control and let "healthcare professionals" administer these funds?

    Same goes for pensions as well.

    This is exactly why Ed Rendell and his "friends" in Harrisburg want to dictate the future of Pittsburgh's pension funds. They want to control the management of the funds (and increase the contributions) so they can skim off the top.

  5. Exactly what the Truth Said, instead of the skimming coming from City Leaders, as it has been, putting us in this position, it will be Harriburg instead.

  6. And by that, you are also saying that Harrisburg will merely be skimming more efficiently that it has been already. What with less middlemen.

    But surely with a bit less accountability. Say what you want about our skimmers -- and I do -- but at least they're OUR skimmers.

    And I can't let Anon 5:24 totally off the hook with "it will never change". Yes it can; we just need more and more easily accessible information, more watchdogs, and as much sensationalism in our state and local news as we have in our national news. As to "the opposition" also being susceptible to contributions, well of course they are; but a little less so since they're not getting the real money because the real money has no use for them yet. The trick is to perpetually install the opposition and throw it out just before they become total bums. I think.

  7. Population loss (see: tax base) is the cause of our current financial position, not
    local skimming

    Don't fool yourself. The same skimming that goes on here in Pittsburgh occurs in Harrisburg on a much larger scale.

  8. There is some merit to Bram's comment, there is def MORE accountabilty here at home.

    But the financial brokers are making a small fortune off all of the small pensions administered locally.

    Reduce admin costs - centralize the thousands of smaller municipal-governmental pension systems in PA.

  9. I don't see how centralizing all the municipal pension systems creates more accountability Huddler. If anything, centralized control by a select few in Harrisburg would create less.

  10. Speaking of pensions, why are there city jobs that still offer pensions? Why not help employees contribute to a 401k?

  11. What city jobs since 2005 offer pensions? Is it only appointed administrative positions?