Harrisburg Flunks

    Most Pennsylvanians have been following with irritated or amused interests the ups and downs of our state budget debates.
    Armed with advanced degrees in procrastination our politicians have decided to suggest some unusual taxing. WHYY’s Chris Satullo explains in his weekly Center Square audio essay.

    Listen: [audio: satullo20090927.mp3]

    You take an 11-week extension on your term paper, and all you come up with is this?

    Harrisburg, you flunk.

    When news hit last weekend that the state’s political leaders had finally reached a budget deal – the one that had been due on June 30 – the first reaction was relief.

    Until, that is, details of the deal oozed out.

    They were so ridiculous, it seemed Pennsylvanians were caught inside a Stephen Colbert spoof.

    This budget deal is one of the dumbest  bits of business since democracy first got cranking back in ancient Greece.

    Gov. Rendell – operating in the realm of reality, although with unhelpful sarcasm – long ago gave Senate Republicans a menu of possible tax increases

    It took all summer for those inveterate taxophobes to admit that the state had to find some new revenue source.

    One Rendell idea was to tax cigars and smokeless tobacco – chew, snuss and all that yucky stuff. That one nose-dived. The General Assembly, you see, is a den of cigar aficionados. Really. And a lot of voters in rural Pennsylvania like the feel of a pinch between the cheek and gums.

    Out of the array of items now exempted from state sales tax, what else did the legislature choose to tax? Lawyers’ fees perhaps? Surely you jest.

    No, they whacked theaters, zoos, museums and the other cultural nonprofits that bring spirit and soul, diversity and diversion to communities.

    What about for profit entertainments, like sports?

    Well, no. Apparently, the Sultans of the Susquehanna wouldn’t be caught dead at the ballet, but the ballgame – they do go there.

    So brilliant. At this moment, even cultural titans such as the Philadelphia Orchestra face yawning deficits. Meanwhile, three of the state’s pro teams won championships last year. They sell out as regularly as you eat breakfast. Do you really think one of those guys with their faces painted green, are going to stop going to games because of a sales tax? Please.

    Great idea, Harrisburg: Slam struggling community theaters, but give Jeff Lurie a pass.

    And so, in the category of cluelessness in a budget crisis … (SOUND OF ENVELOPE RIPPING OPEN)  the Emmy goes to – the General Assembly of Pennsylvania.

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