It's been over a week since the election in Wisconsin seemingly indicated that voters of every stripe are ready to reward leaders who are willing to tackle the tough issues. And for the past week it has been a study in contrasts, seeing business as usual here in the Keystone State.
On Monday, PA House Bill 1776 was tabled in the State House Finance Committee. This was the legislation that would have ended the use of property tax as a vehicle to fund public schools. It was controversial in that it was a “tax-swap” that looked to other means to finance education. But if it stays bottled up in a committee it doesn't get discussed or amended and it could just die without any consideration at all. We may argue on the different ways school funding may be handled, but the idea of abolishing a tax that makes every property owner literally a paying tenant of the government sounded like a principled move to many.
Catching bits and pieces of local politicians on the TV was no better. Legislators of both parties giving speeches as to why Harrisburg should retain it's control of liqueur stores. Another one in her home district pontificating on the importance of parks. Teachers rally in Harrisburg, again. Like I said, business as usual. Pennsylvania is not Wisconsin.
What was Wisconsin supposed to mean? How does it apply here? There the state has enacted labor reform laws that have empowered the local governments when it comes time to bargain with the unions. This has given those local governments the ability to avoid the cutbacks in services they would have otherwise had to. Too often our local boroughs and school districts are hampered by the dictates of the state. They end up cutting services or school programs because, the way the state regulations are written, that is their only option. Currently there is a PA House Bill (HB 1369) to end teacher's strikes in Pennsylvania. Is your representative a co-sponsor? Will it also be tabled in committee?
The fact that Wisconsin's reforms are bearing fruit and earning the support of voters should be a lesson for every politician willing to learn. It is up to us to to push the issues and point out these lessons and make sure the politicians know the very real consequences of not learning them. A comfortable politician is like the leopard that can't change his spots, the office holder already has his own inclinations and personality. If he hasn't moved yet it's because he needs an incentive to overcome his own personal political inertia. We need to give them reasons to move...
Diogenes, the legendary cynic, was known for carrying a lit lantern in the daytime giving the excuse that he was, “looking for an honest man.” Sometimes it seems the Tea Party movement is in just as futile a search, “looking for the principled politician.” What it really needs to do is shine that lantern into the eyes of the current establishment and wake them from their slumber. We see what works, what effective office holders can do. We must demand as much from our own.