Departing Gov. Rendell reflects on ups, downs, status quo

    Regrets? Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has a few. Well – one big one.

    Reviewing his tenure with Harrisburg reporters Thursday, Rendell said his biggest mistake was signing the 2005 “midnight pay raise” into law.

    “I knew that it would cause trouble. And I was too easily persuaded to do it, because I was told that unless I did it, we wouldn’t get legislative cooperation for the remaining time in office as governor,” he said.

    When reporters pointed out that when Rendell signed the bill, he said legislators deserved a pay hike, the governor responded, “A pay raise might have been merited. The pay raise, and the way it was structured, was untenable.”

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    “They are not term-limited and view their positions as careers…They therefore have a reasonable right to expect periodic raises, which they deserve,” Rendell said in a statement on the day he signed the law. About a month later, Rendell insisted he hadn’t given a second thought to signing the pay raise. “Absolutely not,” he said, according to a Capitolwire transcript.

    Rendell said he’s most proud of boosting state funding for education, and growing Pennsylvania’s early childhood education efforts.

    “Clearly if you look at the track we’re on with our economy -– our economy becoming more global. Our economy becoming more technology-driven. Everywhere, and every aspect of our economy is technology-driven now,” he said. “What we have done is going to endure to the benefit of millions of young people as they go into the job market.”

    Aside from education, Rendell said he hopes people remember him for pushing a progressive agenda.

    Asked whether he is worried his legacy would instead boil down to legalizing gambling, Rendell demurred.

    “When you’re in the ground, you’re in the ground. …I don’t give a hoot what people say about me. I know what I’ve done,” he said.

    Rendell defended casinos as a net positive, saying they’ve lowered property taxes and re-energized Pennsylvania’s horse racing industry, among other things.

    And how will state workers remember him? “They will remember the budget deadlocks where they weren’t paid. What they should remember most? They should compare me to what’s coming,” Rendell said.

    And a word of advice

    On that note, the main advice Rendell has for Republican Tom Corbett was to govern like he’ll only get one term.

    “Do what you believe in, and don’t worry about the political consequences. Because first of all, if you do that and you stick to your guns, you’ll probably get reelected anyway,” he said. “But secondly, you’ll feel good about what you do, and you’ll have a whole lot more fun than if you worry about the political consequences, or you have your pollster test something out and say, oh, this isn’t any good.”

    Rendell said his other piece of advice is that the Capitol will be much more partisan than Corbett realizes.

    “My business has become a terrible business. …The first thought of 90 percent of the people in state capitols is, ‘How do we screw the other side?’ Not how we benefit the people.”

    Rendell said he will expand on these and other thoughts in a handwritten note he’ll leave on Corbett’s desk in the governor’s office.


    Share your opinion in Junto: How do you envision Philadelphia in the post-Rendell era?

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