Talk of tax returns can distract from real issues
This election cycle, with emotions and tensions particularly high, almost everything is hyperpoliticized and used by candidates, their backers and even the news media as weapons with which to discredit.
In virtually every campaign, from the presidential race to contests for the U.S. Senate and local offices, personal attacks and demagoguery are the focal points instead of substantive debates about policy.
One of the tactics du jour is the politicization of tax returns. Candidates for public office — and especially the presidency — ought to release their tax returns to assure voters that they are not crooks, to paraphrase the famous words of former President Richard Nixon. That means making sure there are no conflicts of interest or otherwise crooked activity.
But the release, examination and publication of tax returns today isn’t about ensuring that a politician’s financial activities are on the up-and-up. It’s typically about the demonization of a candidate by attempting to classify him or her as rich, out of touch or a member of the often derided “1 percent.” It shouldn’t be, though — it should be about conflicts of interest and bad dealings.
It’s a shame that even tax returns have to be politicized in races that should be about ideas and issues. It’s certainly valuable to know if a candidate is responsible with his or her finances. But it’s also important to realize that taxes are used more often than not as a political ploy by campaigns to attack and cast doubt, distracting voters from consequential policy issues and matters of substance.
Tax returns would have more relevance in election season if conflict-of-interest laws at the local, state and national levels were updated and modernized to disallow conflicts and punish violations. But when is the last time you remember an elected official recusing him or herself from a vote for that purpose?
Perhaps that’s a reform our elected officials ought to pursue after the mudslinging of election season concludes. — Los Angeles Daily News, Digital First Media
General assembly should have some say over labor pacts
Gov. Tom Wolf recently negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME labor force that includes nearly 32,000 state employees.
According to the state’s Independent Fiscal Office, the agreement will cost the state $390 million over the next three years.
Under the way state government now works, Gov Wolf negotiated the agreement unilaterally with the state’s largest union. And he has the right to do the same regarding other agreements the state has.
As for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, it has one responsibility find the money from taxpayers to pay for the agreement and no negotiating power.
State Rep. Garth Everett, a Muncy Republican, is pushing legislation that would give the General Assembly the power to override the governor’s negotiation decisions.
We sorely need some check and balance over this or any future governor.
It’s not the pay increases are exorbitant they are in the 2 to 3 percent range.
But the state is struggling to balance its budgets and facing future fiscal woes, starting with an underfunded pension system that threatens to overrun the rest of the state budget.
Under similar circumstances in the private sector, work force reductions and pay freezes would be the likely scenario.
But our state government has shown for years it is not in touch with the fiscal realities that everyone else lives by.
Leaders simply spend more to solve problems and taxpayers with no right of refusal or oversight are expected to pay for it.
There at least needs to be a mechanism in place to make labor negotiations with state workers a matter that the General Assembly has some oversight over.