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Don't burden citizens with party's expense

February 26, 2002|By BOB MAGINNIS

An Associated Press report from Pennsylvania's state capital this week suggests that even as the governor proposes cutting the state's budget reserve and cash for higher education, there'll be no reduction in the taxpayer money lawmakers spend for partisan political purposes. It's time to look at changing the law on how such money is raised.

Writing from Harrisburg, AP's George Strawley reports that the four "special leadership accounts" divided between Democratic and Republican caucuses will be set at $42 million for next year. That's a 2.3 percent hike, at a time when higher education would be cut byv 4 percent in the governor's budget.

What's the cash used for? In one instance, the GOP caucus spent $500,000 over several years on computer research done by Carngie-Mellon University. It used the results to craft a redistricting plan that will strengthen GOP House members' abilitiy to withstand Democratic challenges.

To add insult to injury, until this year disbursements from these funds were secret, before challenges from groups like Common Cause prompted a House resolution that will make public all disbursements.

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That's nice. But at a time when governor is proposing education cuits and chopping the state's cash reserve in half, we question the fairness of requiring all taxpayers, no matter what their party affiliation, to fund partisan political operations.

Luckily we have a solution in mind. Just as the federal government provides some funding of the presidential campaign with a checkoff on federal returns, state officials could give the same option to Pennsylvanians on their state returns.

In that way, each party could fund its partisan operations voluntarily, without forcing those who don't agree with their policies to kick in. The system would have the added virtue of allowing those displeased with the behavior of their own party's office-holders to withhold cash from them as well.

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