Kennedy served the disadvantaged
Judah Samet is correct in the condemnation he hurls at the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy in his Sept. 10 letter, “Columnist blasted on Kennedy.” Much of Kennedy’s life was condemnable for his womanizing and overindulgence in alcohol and food. He was responsible for the death of an innocent young woman whom he, perhaps in a drunken stupor, allowed to drown in his vehicle. His savaging of the esteemed and brilliant Judge Robert Bork was off base and reprehensible, and Kennedy bears significant responsibility for denying this worthy and highly qualified candidate a spot on the Supreme Court.
There is another side to the ledger, though, which should be examined in consideration of the life of Sen. Kennedy. He suffered tragedy and loss on a scale that was commensurate only with that of Job, violently losing those who were dear to him as they were in the prime of their lives.
Sen. Kennedy’s recently published autobiography indicates that he wondered how and if he would survive it all. He acknowledges in the book that he drowned his sorrows in alcohol, particularly after the murder of beloved brother Bobby.
The justice system and the people of Massachusetts determined that the senator should not be imprisoned for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, rather that he should remain free and be permitted to serve the people. I agreed with few of his ultra-liberal policies nor did I agree with him on the role of government, but he served his constituents sincerely and arduously working for those whom he saw as the disadvantaged — the downtrodden, and the poor.
There are things about Kennedy’s life that cannot be excused, but I believe that he attempted to make amends for the harm he had done to many individuals.
Upper St. Clair
Perfect sense over perfect storm
Deep state budget cuts and an aversion to broad-based tax increases are pushing down a heavy fiscal burden to counties and local service providers. During the current state budget impasse, every day brings news of layoffs, program cuts, worrisome tax anticipation loans and missed school district subsidy payments.
But there is a fair and long-term way to help ease this burden — and stave off likely real estate tax increases from this brewing “Perfect Storm.” Now that Gov. Ed Rendell has yanked a Marcellus shale severance tax off the negotiating table, I am calling for a full-scale revival of my House Bill 10, which would permit the assessment of natural gas, coal bed methane and oil for taxation purposes.
House Bill 10 imposes no new tax structure; it would simply let counties, school districts and municipalities go back to taxing natural gas — including the trillion-dollar Marcellus shale — the same as coal and above-ground real estate. More importantly, 100 percent of the money would stay “at home,” helping the numerous counties where this lucrative natural resource exists.
As the state grapples with its own budget shortfall, it is abundantly clear that the subsidy landscape has changed, perhaps forever. Implementing H.B. 10 is an uncomplicated, efficient way to make sure a burgeoning industry pays its fair share, while helping counties, municipalities and school districts mitigate a sharp reduction in state funding.
By one estimate, restoring natural gas to the tax rolls would yield $202.8 million in yearly revenue at the local level. As drillers continue flocking to Pennsylvania to tap the Marcellus, despite the industry’s gloom-and-doom lobbying against a severance tax, it makes perfect sense to treat them the same as the homeowner. Let’s pick “Perfect Sense” over the “Perfect Storm.”
(The author, a member of the state Legislature, is the House Majority Whip.)