By Tim Potts of Democracy Rising PA
As he allowed 42,000 working poor citizens to lose their AdultBasic health insurance for want of $54 million, Gov. Tom Corbett quietly approved $48 million in WAMs (walking around money) for lawmakers’ pet projects. He also did not ask lawmakers to give up any of their $188.5 million surplus to help balance the budget. Corbett promised as a candidate to stop WAMs and get the legislature to return all but a fraction of its surplus.
Here is the WAMs story:
Gov. Tom Corbett OKs $48 million in legislators’ grants, WAMs, Harrisburg Patriot, March 11.
Let’s make this simple.
1. WAMs are unconstitutional. See Common Cause of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealth, 668 A.2d 190 (1995).
The Commonwealth Court ruling, affirmed by the PA Supreme Court, said that the General Assembly may not, “…authorize, designate, allot, or set aside moneys, either directly or indirectly earmarked for specific entities not under the absolute control of the Commonwealth.”(emphasis in the original by the Court) Id. at 205. If the legislature wants to do that, the Constitution requires that each appropriation be in a separate bill that requires a two-thirds vote for passage. See Article III, Section 30.
Further, the court said that, “…such a designation would violate one of the central tenets of our system of government, separation of powers.” Id.
And, “…the legislative branch may not micro-manage the executive’s power to administer appropriated funds by earmarking the non-governmental recipients thereof.” Id.at 206.
WAMs earmark appropriated funds, after they are appropriated, for non-governmental recipients that are not under the absolute control of the Commonwealth. The funds are appropriated without separate bills that received a two-thirds vote for passage.
2. All governors, all lawmakers, in fact all public officials, take an oath to “obey” the Constitution. See Article VI, Section 3.
The Constitution does not permit a new governor to disobey the Constitution because his predecessor did. The new governor himself is responsible for obeying the Constitution, including Common Cause of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealth.
3. Gov. Corbett could have refused to give away $48 million in WAMs.
Every WAM requires the approval of the governor. Corbett could and should have refused to approve the WAMs because they are unconstitutional, but he didn’t.
4. Then there are his campaign promises to the voters who elected him.
Speaking of WAMs in his response to the 2010 Integrity Questionnaire by Democracy Rising PA and Rock the Capital, Corbett said:
- “The Office of the Governor, with the ability to blue-line legislation and control disbursements of state grants, can and will be effective in rooting out this wasteful spending under my administration.”
- “Essentially, the governor [referring to then-Gov. Ed Rendell] has been able to preside over the willful disbursement of WAMs because his explosive spending agenda has not faced meaningful checks and balances which would accomplish the needed elimination of wasteful spending.”
Click here to read Corbett’s entire questionnaire response. Approving WAMs isn’t the only promise Corbett has broken. Another was the promise to deal with the legislature’s surplus:
“…I will work with the General Assembly to cap the legislative accounts at a fraction of its current level. The current legislative surplus should be used to help relieve the pressure created for Pennsylvania taxpayers by the increasing spending in Harrisburg.”
Gov. Corbett’s budget proposal was business as usual with the General Assembly. Here are some stories:
Lawmakers not asked to sacrifice in Corbett’s budget, KDKA TV Pittsburgh, March 9
Legislative budget barely trimmed, Pottsville Republican-Herald, March 11
Lawmakers: Legislature should lead by example, The Sentinel, Cumberland County, March 11
Balancing the books, then reform, Allentown Morning Call, March 13
PA legislature’s cash bound by few rules, Centre Daily Times, March 13
We take no delight in reporting this news for two reasons. First, citizens had every reason to expect Gov. Corbett to live up to his promises. He spent most of a year telling us so.
Second, it doesn’t have to be this way. Other states prove it.
- When will our political leaders give us the highest standards of public integrity in America?
- If they don’t, when will we elect new political leaders who will?
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