They may seem separate and unrelated, but there is a unifying force – and a cautionary lesson – in the fate of the state's voter ID law and the Centax/Don Wilkinson tax collection debacle.
Both are failures of reasonable ideas that collapsed because Harrisburg hatched them in half-baked haste.
Well, in fairness, the Centax fiasco – which municipalities locally and across the state are blaming for budgetary shortfalls - was years in the making, beginning with passage of Act 32 in 2009. That law made the sensible requirement that each county hire a single tax collector for it's numerous municipalities by 2012. And the fault rests more with Centax-Don Wilkinson's failure than with the state.
But change was clearly still put into operation without making sure it would work as planned, throwing many municipal budgets into disarray as Centax bungled the tax collection and ultimately closed its doors, leaving elected officials scrambling to fill million-dollar holes in budgets already struggling in a bad economy.
The voter ID law, on the other hand, was clearly rushed into effect and ultimately stalled by the courts at the last minute because not enough time and money were provided to assure everyone who needed a valid photo ID would get one.
Both cases are emblematic of how Harrisburg does business – regardless of which party is in charge – and of how the dysfunctional sausage grinder repeatedly produces unpalatable laws. This happens because state legislators show a relentless penchant for kicking the proverbial can down the road while passing the very real buck down to local municipalities and school districts.
(Think teacher pension increases, approved by Harrisburg and funded by school districts, which have spent years preparing for an inevitable huge spike in how much they must contribute to a pay for largesse they did not dole out.
The Harrisburg recipe has become an endless parade of the same old fare: unfunded mandates with unintended, yet strangely predictable, results. Municipal leaders and school board members may not know exactly how they will be impacted when the state legislature acts, but they know it will hurt, and they know the nabobs who caused the problem will be too busy grinding more unsavory sausage to help.
Both cases are emblematic of how Harrisburg does business – regardless of which party is in charge – and of how the dysfunctional sausage grinder repeatedly produces unpalatable laws.