Commonwealth Foundation president and CEO Matthew J. Brouillette issued the following statement today in response to closed-door budget negotiations between Gov. Rendell and selected legislative leaders:
“A mere two days after celebrating the first open budget negotiations, Pennsylvania’s legislative leaders have decided to step back into the shadows. In suspending the sunshined conference committee, and agreeing to convene in closed session with Governor Rendell and his staff, lawmakers have reverted to the same politics-as-usual they promised to end.
Pennsylvanians have had enough of the back-room deals of past budgets. To put an end to the cronyism, corruption, sweetheart deals, and trading votes for WAMs that have dominated Harrisburg politics, open government is a must.
Unfortunately, Gov. Rendell is up to his old tricks, refusing to allow any of his cabinet members to provide information to the committee, and instead pressuring lawmakers to meet privately in the Governor’s Mansion. Legislative leaders also deserve blame for Pennsylvania’s embarrassing budget fiasco — particularly the House Democrats who, instead of serious discussion, paraded out a House Democrat staff member to participate in a well-rehearsed stage production touting the House Democrats’ budget proposal.
While the first two days of the conference committee have been appropriately called a ‘circus,’ a ‘dog and pony show,’ and a ‘sham,’ voters deserve to hear and see exactly the type of shenanigans that their elected officials pull.
There is still a chance for lawmakers to offer Pennsylvanians the type of open government they deserve, either by reconvening the conference committee, or by allowing the press and public to observe the wheeling and dealing between Gov. Rendell and legislative leaders.”