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As someone who has worked in government and politics for years, including eight years as a state legislator, my bar for basic competence is relatively low. At this point, it takes something extraordinarily stupid to make me sit up and take notice. On that bit of foreshadowing, let’s take a look at my old stomping grounds, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where this week they passed what I can only refer to as The Dumbest Fucking Idea Ever™.

The Backstory

The state is legitimately broke, with a $32 billion spending plan approved without any way to pay for it, which in of itself is pretty dumb, but furthermore, nobody knows where the final $2.2 billion needed to balance the budget is going to come from. The governor, Tom Wolf, is a Democrat, and the House and Senate are overwhelmingly Republican. Like, they’re so red that there should be a crayon called “Pennsylvania Legislature” consisting of the deepest red imaginable having carnal relations with the brightest shade of red imaginable.

crayon red
You don’t want to know where that crayon has been.

The Senate, which does have some moderate Republicans, passed a bill a few weeks ago which funds the budget by enacting, among other things, a tax on natural gas production (aka fracking) like every single other state in America has. For now, we’ll ignore the part about how the “deal,” includes regulatory concessions for the energy industry even though the drilling companies can pretty much do whatever the fuck they want with no consequences, but that’s for another day.

Yeah, It’s That Bad.

So the Senate Republicans suck it up and find a way to get the $2.2 billion. They pass the legislation and send it over to the House of Representatives, which is controlled by a Republican Caucus filled with people who are great at getting elected, but utterly incompetent when it comes to governing.

The lobbyists control the members like remote controlled cars, which is probably an insult to remote controlled cars. The few moderates left are rapidly getting picked off in savage Republican primaries, and the districts are gerrymandered so badly that a Republican legislator is genuinely more worried about losing a limb in a vending machine accident than losing to a Democrat in an election. Yeah, it’s that bad.

mike turzai simpsons vending machine
For PA Republican Legislators, it’s the sum of all fears.

We’re getting to The Dumbest Fucking Idea Ever™. I promise.

So the House Republicans apparently got together and crafted their own revenue plan based on three core beliefs:

  1. We must never, ever, ever tax our good friends, the poor downtrodden multi-billion dollar energy companies;
  2. Anything even remotely resembling basic common sense is to be destroyed immediately; and
  3. We can do pretty much anything we want and still get re-elected because the voters will believe any line of bullshit we feed them.

Enter “The Dumbest Idea Ever™”

From those guiding principles emerged the House Republicans’ budget plan, more accurately described as The Dumbest Fucking Idea Ever™. Here’s how it works:

First, take just about every cent from existing programs and departments, including major transportation funding from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, because that’s where Democrats get elected so fuck them, right? Many of the departments have made it clear that there is no money to take, but the House Republicans clearly believe that’s fake news and therefore doesn’t matter.

But the kicker, the heart of The Dumbest Fucking Idea Ever™, involves the $350 million per year Pennsylvania receives as part of the 1998 national tobacco settlement. The plan is apparently to raise $1 billion by giving up the tobacco settlement money for an unspecified number of years and instead using it as security for a massive bond or loan as a one-time budgetary fix.

Let’s examine the ways this is The Dumbest Fucking Idea Ever™:

  1. You’re taking a steady stream of recurring revenue and blowing it on a one-time fix, which thereby will increase the structural hole in your budget by at least $350 million.
  2. You (by which I mean we the taxpayers) are paying God knows how much in fees and interest, but we’re talking about tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars depending on the term of the deal. But don’t worry, I have a hunch that the Republican leadership “knows a guy” when it’s time to capitalize on this cash cow.
  3. What the hell happens next year? The structural hole in the budget is only going to get bigger, and there will no cookie jars left to raid. There is no way you get to call yourself a fiscal conservative and support this, especially from a group of legislators who literally spend about two-thirds of their day whining and bitching about the evils of debt and government spending.
  4. It is an utterly insane and wholly irresponsible way to govern if you can even call it governing at this point. You’re maxing out your credit card to pay the electric bill in the hope that maybe electricity will be free by next month?
  5. Most importantly, it underscores the total disregard the Legislature has for the people they claim to represent by sending a clear message: “People of Pennsylvania, we do not give two fucks about you unless you are a multi-billion dollar energy company with a healthy Political Action Fund heading into the 2018 Election Cycle”.

Will the Senate and Governor go along with The Dumbest Fucking Idea Ever™? Nobody knows, but the state is officially out of money to pay its bills, which damages our credit rating and hurts vendors statewide who were probably counting on that money to operate their businesses.

Thank goodness we elected a bunch of fiscal conservatives to prevent anyone from making any rash or ill-advised decisions, right?

Author

A passionate communicator, advocate, and opinion maker with executive-level experience in law, public policy, and government. (Don't let the boyish good looks fool you.) President of Perpetual Fortitude, a Pennsylvania-based political consulting and social media management firm. (www.perpetualfortitude.com)

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