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Pennsy gov to legislators: Think about state, not party

January 23, 2003

This week Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell used his inaugural speech to offer an olive branch to the state's Republicans and to call for an end to partisan wrangling in the state legislature. His generous words should not lull anyone into believing that the cure for what ails the state budget will be easy.

At his swearing-in ceremony Tuesday, Rendell said he understood why the previous administration had dipped into the state's Rainy Day Fund and tapped a number of "one-time" revenue sources to balance the budget.

That big-hearted rhetoric was a gift to every elected official who winked at the last budget deal, which was done not for the state's long-term prosperity, but out of fear that raising taxes in an election year would be political suicide.

But after letting everyone off the hook, Rendell served notice that such tricks won't be available in the future. That's because Rendell has promised to increase the state's share of education funding and reduce property taxes statewide.

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Rendell said the state will search its budget for waste and abuse, a pair of villains that are always easy to talk about but often difficult to find. But he also said the state will look for "new sources of revenue."

New money will be needed to pay for better schools with smaller class sizes and extra help for those students who need it, the governor said. In addition to improving schools for students in grades K-12, Rendell said the state must also have better preschool programs.

Rendell also promised action on the state's malpractice problems and pledged a new economic development plan that would make private enterprise a partner with the state.

But in the end, Rendell returned to the call he made at the outset of the speech, saying that Pennsylvanians want an end to the attitude that has too many lawmakers evaluating proposals on the basis of what's good for their party instead of what's good for the state.

Wouldn't it be nice if those who opposed a bill introduced by a lawmaker from another party could describe it as a good idea with some flaws instead of something that would ruin the state? We look forward to seeing how many heard Rendell's call and how they'll respond.

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