Letter to the Editor: Rendell's Smokescreen
The ex-governor's new book diverts attention from what he did, or didn't do, while he was at the helm.
To the Editor:
Former Gov. Ed Rendell is currently attempting to capitalize on his fame (or infamy) as two-term Pennsylvania governor with he promotion of his book, “A Nation of Wusses." I suppose it is advisable for Rendell to focus on something which distracts attention from his calamitous eight years of service as Pennsylvania’s “leader."
Those of us who believed that a “new Democrat” was running in 2002 were quickly disabused of the notion when upon election, Rendell immediately called for a 34 percent hike in the punitive and onerous state income tax. He “settled” for a 10 percent boost in the levy after a lengthy stalemate with General Assembly Republicans, who gave up the fight for spending and tax restraint.
Rendell made a campaign promise of property tax relief of at least 30 percent for all Pennsylvanians, an impossible dream which was to be realized, in part, through the approval of gambling casinos. Those of us who pay thousands of dollars per year in property taxes have received a pittance of "relief," and virtually all of us are paying considerably more in property tax today than when Rendell took office. His regular campaign promise vis a vis property taxes that "If the Legislature does not act, I will" was a sham. The advent of gambling casinos has done virtually nothing for the homeowner; it was initiated under false pretenses.
On Rendell’s watch, state pension fund shortfalls metastasized, now having reached a staggering $37 billion unfunded liability for which taxpayers will pay through the nose for years to come. The problem began when the General Assembly approved massive pension boosts for themselves, state public school teachers and rank-and-file state employees (under a complicit Gov. Tom Ridge), but providing no means to pay for it. As state employees consistently contributed a hefty 6.25 percent of their gross pay toward their pensions over the years, there were years in which the Commonwealth paid nothing. Rendell, to my knowledge, never uttered a peep about the growing pension crisis nor did he ever propose a “fix." In government, one can kick the can down the road to “the next guy” with no ramifications, and that is precisely what he did, wearing blinders to the approach of fiscal Armageddon.
The slimy and greedy General Assembly leaders of 2005 told Rendell that if he did not sign on to a 2005 pay grab that his agenda would not pass. He went along with the dishonorable members, going so far as to refer to the pay hike as "good legislation" upon signing it into law. He quickly changed his tune when a citizen revolt forcing repeal occurred. He now says that he regrets his actions, that he should have called the bluff of the General Assembly and refused to acquiesce.
Any hope that Gov. Rendell would be a pillar of honor and integrity and open, honest government vanished when he demonstrated his loyalty to and affinity for corrupt figures of the Legislature. He helped to raise money for former State House kingpin, disgraced multiple felon and inmate Mike Veon at a time that Veon was under indictment for serious crimes of which he was ultimately convicted, and instead of appropriately arguing for proper punishment for another multiple felon and legislative leader, Vincent Fumo, upon his conviction, Rendell stuck his finger in the eye of the citizenry by joining other prominent, dishonorable individuals to argue for leniency for his pal and legislative partner, Fumo: what an embarrassment to all honorable Pennsylvanians!
Shamefully included on the list of Fumo apologists was former Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Justice Richard Zappala, father of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala. I wonder if the DA, who pushed for the conviction and imprisonment of former State Senator Jane Orie, agrees with his father that some crooks of the Legislature should be shielded from harsh punishment.
Gov. Tom Corbett was elected to clean up the mess created by the reckless Rendell years, and hallelujah, he is doing it! While Corbett does not always get it right, he is forcing the state to live within its means and honoring his pledge to hold the line on taxes. I do not expect to see Governor and former Attorney General Corbett going to any court to plead for leniency for legislative crooks. Even Rendell, Corbett's ideological polar opposite, is offering grudging praise for Corbett's adherence to his campaign promises.
No, Gov. Rendell was not a "wuss." He boldly took a wrecking ball to the Commonwealth and its people.
Upper St. Clair