- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:



Those who are crying over the veto that Gov. Tom Wolf used last week to dispose of a controversial bill to privatize the state-controlled sales of wine and liquor are shedding what we would call crocodile tears, with apologies to the crocodiles.

On Friday, a commentator for the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative-libertarian policy organization, cried foul over Wolf’s action, which the governor said was because of his objections to it a business proposition.

“Gov. Wolf had the opportunity to enact historic liquor privatization that would have freed Pennsylvanians from a scandal-ridden relic of Prohibition,” said Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Though a majority of voters - Democrats, Republicans and Independents - want to end the government liquor monopoly, Wolf says it’s his way or the highway. Wolf opted to keep consumers bound by a government system that offers less convenience, fewer choices, and higher prices.”

What Benefield did not say, but which is clearly in the back of everyone’s mind in Harrisburg, is that the Republican supporters of this idea had a perfect storm of control in the capital until the voters threw failed Gov. Tom Corbett out of office in 2014. The GOP had control of the House of Representatives, the state Senate, the governor’s office, yet could not come together to get such legislation passed.

Wolf, a Democrat in his first year, said in a news release that selling off the liquor system was not a good business decision.

“We can support and bolster consumer convenience without selling an asset and risking higher prices and less selection for consumers,” Wolf said. “I am open to options for expanding the availability of wine and beer in more locations, including supermarkets.”

The liquor bill would have let those who currently hold about 14,000 licenses to sell beer in the state to pay more for the right to also sell wine, liquor or both. The roughly 600 state-owned liquor stores would have closed, one at a time, once private-sector sales were up and running in the area. Senate Republican leaders issued a statement saying Wolf sided with special interests and against the priorities of consumers. They said the plan would have brought the state in line with the rest of the country and generated $220 million in revenue. Liquor privatization will be part of the coming talks to resolve the budget stalemate, they said.

But privately, many of those who voted for the liquor privatization bill did so specifically because they knew Wolf would veto it. Thereby they could claim championing the rights of consumers, without having to address any of the economic realities that Wolf would have been faced with if he signed the bill. State Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, is one of the lawmakers who voted for the wine and liquor bill despite concerns that he wanted addressed.

“I think we all did,” said White, R-Indiana. “I voted for it with a promise that when and if he does veto it, and we have a chance to renegotiate the bill, I have a chance to make sure my concerns are addressed,” said White, who worried that no private outlet would replace state-controlled wine and liquor stores that would disappear from his district’s rural areas.

We would support wholeheartedly a modernization of the state’s liquor sales system, and look to our neighbor to the south, Delaware, for a model. But in the meantime, half-heated supporters of modernization should save us their tears.

- Delaware County Daily Times



The state Senate approved an important piece of legislation aimed at helping volunteer fire companies stem the flood of dwindling memberships.

The bill allows municipalities to waive local income taxes for firefighters and emergency responders.

“I definitely think it’s a move in the right direction,” said Ronald Springer, Cambria County emergency services director. He also serves as president of the Dauntless Fire Company in Ebensburg.

Count us, too, among the bill’s supporters.

“We need to not only recruit new people but retain those who are already serving as first responders,” Springer told our Patrick Buchnowski, who teamed with statehouse reporter John Finnerty for the story.

Many fire houses reported shrinking rosters - either because members had to move away, were working two jobs or had to stay home with children due to a spouse being employed.

The problem is not specific to the Greater Johnstown area. Currently, there are only about 50,000 volunteer firefighters, said state Fire Commissioner Tim Solobay. That is down drastically from about 300,000 volunteers about a generation ago, Solobay said.

As a result, many emergency dispatchers have to call out multiple fire companies, knowing the home station can’t muster enough responders.

“Without meaningful intervention,” said Sen. Sean Wiley, D-Erie, a sponsor of the bill, “I fear there may very soon come a day when the alarm sounds and no one is there to answer the call.”

Although possible, that is a scenario we would not want to imagine.

“We are concerned about the dwindling numbers and what that means for fire protection,” Lohr said.

Becoming a first responder takes commitment to training, dedication to answer alarms at all hours of the day and night, and a desire to help others.

The Volunteer Firemen’s Insurance Services Inc. reported that 70 percent of new volunteers quit within five years.

That could be because new recruits, fire chiefs say, eventually become disenchanted because they envisioned rushing into burning buildings or pulling victims from mangled accidents, not standing in parking lots or in front of buildings selling sandwiches and pizzas or conducting other fundraising activities.

That is a disturbing trend.

Other states also have created tax breaks for volunteers to deal with shortages, and the Pennsylvania Legislature is mulling additional incentives, such as a college loan forgiveness plan or expanding a length-of-service program in which communities make contributions to a firefighter’s pension.

“I think it’s long overdue,” said Rick Lohr, Hooversville Volunteer Fire Company president and Somerset County Emergency Services coordinator.

“This will give them (first responders) some incentive.

We agree.

- The (Johnstown) Tribune Democrat



By all accounts, Bill Clinton, Rhodes Scholar, twice governor and two-term president, is a smart man.

Intelligent, perhaps, but he’s too clever by half. During a recent Bloomberg interview in which he “answered” questions about the Clinton Foundation’s large, suspiciously timed “donations” from foreign governments, Clinton demanded, “Has anybody proved that we did anything objectionable?”

Invoking the unavailability of smoking-gun evidence is a defiant, “depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-is-is” sort of way to declare innocence - especially since connecting the dots, following the money and tracking timelines reveal strong indications of potential ethical misconduct by Clinton and his wife during her tenure as secretary of State.

More recently, Clinton told a CNN host how impressed he is by many of the Republicans who have announced or are considering a 2016 presidential run. However, Clinton qualified, “They still believe trickle-down economics works better than investment, and their convictions are so great that they’re undeterred by evidence.” (Note: In this context, “investment” is hack-speak for “government spending”)

But Clinton offered no evidence.

Ironically, Bill Clinton is undeterred by the evidence, which explains his second-term’s economy: Prosperity fueled largely by a trickle-down tax cut on capital gains and dividends.

In 1993, Clinton and a Democrat-controlled Congress passed one of the largest income tax increases in history. The left still praises Clinton for increasing taxes, but reports from the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Management and Budget and the IRS agree that, despite the rate hike’s magnitude, Treasury receipts missed enactors’ optimistic forecasts.

Among progressive Democrats, such evidence is known only as “bad luck.”

The tax results of Clinton’s first term can be simply summarized: Rate hikes salvaged by the good luck of an electronic/communications revolution and a normal growth cycle as America emerged from recession. Without good fortune, Clinton’s tax rate increases would likely have caused revenue declines in a lagging economy.

In fact, the balanced budgets and surpluses of the Clinton years occurred only after a Republican Congress passed and Clinton reluctantly signed a 1997 tax bill which lowered the capital gains rate from 28 percent to 20 percent, added a child tax credit and established higher limits on tax exclusion for IRA contributions and estates.

The rate reduction on capital gains unleashed the economy: Capital investment tripled by 1998 and doubled again in 1999. Treasury receipts for capital gains/dividend tax obligations soared immediately. Jobless rates dropped.

Trickle, trickle …

In short, tax relief drove “Clinton’s” prosperity.

Tax cuts worked for Democratic icon President John Kennedy, too. Kennedy oversaw a significant reduction of confiscatory income tax rates on high earners and taxpayers inclusively. Records tracking Kennedy’s rate reductions reveal that Treasury revenues increased as freed assets entered the economy.

Politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton who are “undeterred by the evidence” of their own economic history clearly believe Americans, generally, to be stupid, inattentive or gullible.

Another Clinton presidency would confirm their beliefs and reward the contempt Clinton and his wife have consistently shown for American voters.

- The Lebanon Daily News



Whether the guy strapping their kid into a carnival ride has a criminal past likely isn’t on the minds of most parents as they chase their child from one amusement to another. And it shouldn’t be.

Criminal background checks are a pretty standard part of the hiring process these days. So parents shouldn’t have to worry about the histories of the mostly transient individuals who work at community fairs and church carnivals, which are both common and popular over the summer.

But the fact is, the state law that mandates criminal background checks for employees and volunteers who work with children does not cover traveling carnivals and concession operators or their workers.

As a result, wanted criminals and people with criminal records are landing jobs at carnivals. That’s what we were told by a private investigator who performed criminal background checks at our request.

Here are a couple of examples of what that legal loophole has led to:

Two years ago, Bensalem police arrested a Tennessee woman working at the Neshaminy Mall Spring Fair after the owner reported missing money. In addition to the theft allegations, police discovered the woman was double-billing the credit cards of people buying ride tickets. Turned out the woman had a long criminal history that spanned 15 years and included convictions for theft, burglary, drug possession and assault.

Also two years ago, police arrested a Florida man who was operating the Tilt-a-Whirl ride at the St. Mike’s fair in Tullytown. The guy had struck and seriously injured another worker while driving a golf cart drunk on the fairgrounds. He had a history of 10 convictions for public intoxication; also, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and petty larceny.

So, what gives? Why don’t carnival workers fall under the mandates of the state’s criminal background check law? We asked the state Department of Human Services, which has the responsibility of enforcing the law.

According to Diana Fishlock, spokesman for the department, the background checks aren’t necessary because children attending carnivals generally are under the supervision or guidance of their parents or other adults. As a result, carnival workers are believed not to have control of children. Nor do they have routine or direct contact with kids.

We’re not lawyers or public safety experts, but the Human Services standard sounds a little lax to us. Here’s a standard officials there might consider, since they’re in the business of serving humans, most critically, young humans: “Better safe than sorry!”

We think that’s a more reasoned and responsible standard. Hand it off to the legal department and let the lawyers add the “herewiths” and “heretofores.” The state would then have a law that more adequately protects young carnival-goers - many unsupervised - from criminals looking for prey.

- The Lebanon Daily News



The vote Sunday in Greece against accepting the terms of international donors for a bailout of its sinking economy puts the country and the other 18 members of the eurozone up against a wall in terms of what happens next.

The Greek vote was an emphatic 61 percent “no.” The Syriza party government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who had said he would resign if the vote were “yes,” made a slight gesture toward the Europeans in accepting the resignation of Greece’s finance minister, in whom eurozone negotiators had lost confidence.

The Greeks’ situation will worsen this week. Bank customers are limited to withdrawals of only 60 euros a day - in fact, 50 euros a day, since Greek banks now hold only 50-euro banknotes. Greeks have been withdrawing euros at a rate of 300 million a day and the banks are said to hold only 500 million to a billion euros before they run out altogether. International transfers are forbidden. The European Central Bank will be in no hurry to bail them out again after the vote.

The Greeks’ referendum can be seen as a dramatic, romantic and even expected expression of independence in the face of internationally imposed austerity.

At the same time, they cannot realistically expect the international community, in the form of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund including the United States, and the other eurozone countries to finance a way of life that includes early paid retirement, freedom from taxes for the rich and bloated civil service rolls. It would not be surprising or unjust for Greece’s creditors to let the Syriza government stew for a while in the wake of Sunday’s vote.

Right now, it’s the government’s move. It must propose credible reforms it is willing to undertake to meet the creditors’ conditions for lifesaving credit. The vote may have been a courageous act, but the reality is the Greeks can’t keep dancing without paying the piper.

- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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