Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On Balance, A Loss For Us (For Now)

In these parts, the Bucks County Courier Times noted this morning that PA State Rep. Dave Steil (a Republican, I should note) has announced that he won’t seek re-election for his state House seat next year.

Reporter Kori Walters tells us here that Steil was first sent to Harrisburg in 1992, where he emerged as a key figure on zoning and land planning issues as well as a voice for reform (and if there was ever a place where reform is needed, it is in Harrisburg). Steil is also owed a debt, as the story tells us, because he was “one of six Republican mavericks who helped oust former GOP speaker John Perzel earlier this year.”

I have issues with Dennis O’Brien, the current Repug speaker who emerged over Perzel, when it comes to guns and the NRA in this state, but to be fair, O’Brien is actually an improvement over Perzel every way else (and only in Harrisburg would a Repug say that installing another part member as speaker would “(give) Democrats control of the House,” as Republican Rep Scott Petri once said, so noted in Walters' article).

Walters doesn’t mention Steil’s role in the last spring’s effort to enact Act 1, which was the latest plan for property tax relief in PA with at least two others having failed also (as noted here). The highlight of the plan was to impose a one percent earned income tax in exchange for a projected $600 savings yearly in property taxes.

The Courier Times story on Act 1 notes that it was scuttled by school boards who weren’t comfortable with relying on gaming revenue (another aspect of the act) and also because the act would have required voter approval of budgets when a take hike was required due to inflation, as noted here. It also died because, as the ubiquitous G. Terry Madonna notes, it relied on a complicated formula that impacted different types of earners in different ways; it also relied on voters trusting Harrisburg not to raise other taxes disproportionately and screw up the funding. Given all of that, the result was predictable.

However, though I’m glad on balance that Act 1 failed, I think Steil did the best he could with a difficult issue. And I really don’t know of too many other Republicans who would have bothered to roll up their sleeves, as it were, and tackle something that impacts all of us, regardless of the outcome (I remember that Steil wrote a Guest Opinion in the Courier Times on this, but I cannot locate it at the moment).

So I just want to take a minute and say thanks to Steil and wish him luck.

And by the way, this also opens up some interesting possibilities for the Democrats. Mike Diamond ran well against Steil last year, but I wonder if this would look attractive to Steve Santarsiero also?

Update 1/18/08: Based on this, it looks like Steil's job will be of interest to both Mike and Steve, among others.

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