It’s been a somewhat Dickensian start to 2017’s Winners & Losers – and we mean that in the best of ways.
A whole new class of legislators are sworn into office in Harrisburg – only to (hopefully) confront the state’s metastasizing budget and pension crises. The first group of students in Philadelphia’s universal pre-K program were welcomed into their classrooms – while sticker shock over the city’s soda tax bubbled over on social media. And since there isn’t enough room or time to get into the welter of Washington, D.C.-based mishegas, let’s get right into the year’s first batch of W&L:
Vince Fenerty: How, you may ask, is the guy who lost his perk-filled, six-figure salary Philadelphia Parking Authority job in such scandalous fashion leading off this section? Because it turns out that one of his parting gifts to himself was a $227,000 lump sum payment for unused personal time like vacation days, sick days, etc. We’d like to think that this is a win for taxpayers as well, since a unilateral cash grab as blatant, as shameless as this should – should – lead to reform of public officials’ compensation packages and to the sacking of the PPA’s board in favor of one that has readier access to its collective spine.
Brian Fitzpatrick: the freshman congressman was one of just 74 GOP members to vote against the ill-conceived first order of business for House Republicans: to defang the independent Office of Congressional Ethics in a private meeting. Fitzpatrick also earns kudos for being ready to work on Day One: he introduced a slate of bills that included introducing term limits and mandating a balanced budget.
PA Sen. Wayne Langerholc: Proving that Congressional Republicans hold no monopoly over tone-deaf behavior to begin a new legislative session, the freshman senator signed up for a state pension on Wednesday – something he explicitly said he wouldn’t do during his successful campaign. While betrayed constituents haven’t weighed in yet, the head of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania – a conservative fiscal watchdog organization that sprung for a $15,000 mailer specifically spotlighting Langerholc’s promise to decline a pension – pulled no punches against him in a blistering interview.
Gov. Tom Wolf: Sure, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but it’s admittedly kinda tough to put a positive spin on Wolf’s first major recognition of the year: Governing Magazine named him to their list of the five most vulnerable Democratic governors in the country.
Estelle Richman: To be fair, it’s not even remotely fair to her that Richman is on this list. The former state welfare secretary was Wolf’s pick to fill the open seat on Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission – he even promised to nominate her back in October. Yet, here we are, two months later, and Richman’s name still hasn’t been submitted to the PA Senate for confirmation – and no one is willing to go on the record to say why.