Rendell skates on pay hike
While many lawmakers are under fire from primary opponents for supporting last year's pay raise fiasco, Gov. Ed Rendell continues to skate on the issue.
But it was Rendell who last June publicly gave legislators an opening to approve a pay hike -- helped craft the deal behind closed doors -- and signed the 11-54 percent pay boost for state officials into law last July.
You'd never know it the way Rendell subsequently, and ever so gradually, shifted his position to seemingly side with the public.
The slippery manner by which Rendell largely evaded public criticism over the pay raise was reminiscent of a recent president's ability to talk his way out of most jams. It was downright Clintonesque. As you'll see later, Rendell "triangulated" the Legislature and the public to take the heat off himself.
That law jacked up pay for legislators, judges and top state officials. Legislators were allowed to take it early as unvouchered expenses to circumvent the state Constitution's ban on midterm raises for members of the General Assembly. Rendell said he wouldn't take the raise.
But Rendell insisted at the time it was a good piece of legislation because it, once and for all, took the dirty business of a pay raise out of legislators' hands by tying future salaries to federal pay. Legislators, judges and executive branch employees were to receive salaries less than, but based on, what is paid to their counterparts in Washington, D.C.
It did not, however, do what Rendell said. He kept repeating over and over that it took the pay issue out of legislators' hands. While that may have been the intent, nothing in the law prevented the Pennsylvania Legislature from revising the issue at some point and raising their pay again.
All of this comes to mind as Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer, R-Altoona, and Senate Majority Leader David "Chip" Brightbill, R-Lebanon County, are taken to task by opponents for their role as architects of the pay raise. They face tough primaries on May 16 as does House Democratic Whip Mike Veon, D-Beaver Falls, a pay-raise engineer and the only lawmaker to vote against the law's successful repeal last November. Rendell is unopposed in the Democrat primary but faces Republican candidate Lynn Swann in November.
At the time, Rendell, apparently, viewed the pay hike as part of the price to be paid for getting the Republican-controlled General Assembly to restore proposed budget cuts (his proposed cuts) for Medicaid. No quid pro quo , of course.
Of course. Of course.
As one angry reader later asked me: What's Medicaid have to do with a pay hike?
No one ever faulted Rendell for having poor political instincts. He seemed to sense, long before legislative leaders, that the pay raise was explosive and that the visceral reaction from taxpayers ran deep.
So last summer we saw Rendell start to try to distance himself from the pay raise.
He called on House Minority Leader Bill DeWeese to rescind his decision to punish members of his caucus who failed to support the pay grab. Pay opponents had been stripped of subcommittee chairmanships and extra pay under the law.
DeWeese, D-Greene, of course ignored Rendell. I seriously doubt Rendell ever expected DeWeese to change his mind.
It was grandstanding, pure and simple.
Then Rendell said last August he would sign a bill by Rep. Will Gabig, R-Carlisle, to repeal the unvouchered expense portion of the pay law.
That provision was in the bill he signed into law just a month before. Rendell insisted at first that it was not part of the law he signed. But it was.
As public opposition turned into a torrent of anger, lawmakers decided that enough was enough. They pulled the plug on the pay law but did not require that lawmakers who took unvouchered expenses return the money to taxpayers. Feeling the heat, many did so on their own.
As lawmakers haggled over the final shape of the repeal measure, Rendell almost sounded like a reformer as he lectured them to get the job done.
This -- from the guy who signed the law in the first place and schemed to put it in place.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police identify driver in North Side crash that killed pregnant woman
- Turkey Trot runners turn out to burn calories despite chilly Pittsburgh temps
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger says Saints game is ‘must win’
- Apartment development outlined for former Schenley High School in Pittsburgh
- Steelers’ backups Archer, Harris ready to run
- Pitt plays best game of the season in rout of Kansas State
- Queen of crime writing P.D. James dies at 94
- Starkey: Rutherford will add when timing’s right
- Defying the odds makes this Thanksgiving particularly poignant
- Comeau’s hat trick leads Penguins; Crosby reaches 800 career points
- Blairsville judge accused in hit-run set to enter program for 1st-time offenders