The only pledges that state lawmakers should make are the Pledge of Allegiance and the oath to uphold the state constitution.
Yet Gov. Tom Corbett, 30 state House members and four state senators decided to take another one - the taxpayer protection pledge - and today we can see that strict no-tax promise has backfired on Pennsylvania.
There is no better evidence of that than the recent debate on a Marcellus Shale tax or impact fee.
Lawmakers spent months trying to devise a scheme to raise money from drillers - something more than two-thirds of Pennsylvanians consistently support - but not have it be deemed a tax.
They concocted a head-scratching plan where each county would decide whether to levy the fee. The monies collected will go to the Public Utility Commission to avoid going into the General Fund.
It makes no sense.
Pennsylvania now has a piecemeal system for something that should have been straightforward.
In the end, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, author of the no-tax pledge, and the man these lawmakers were so keen to please, declared it a tax anyway.
Fortunately, the shale bill passed despite the pledge.
Most Republicans ignored Norquist along with groups such as the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think tank that tried to cajole lawmakers into voting against the shale bill by reminding them of their pledge.
The Commonwealth Foundation even went so far as to put a list on its website of lawmakers who took the pledge and then posted a picture of a Great White and the words "Don't feed the sharks!" All that was missing was the theme song from "Jaws."
In the words of Rep. Scott Boyd, R-Lancaster, responding to the president of the Commonwealth Foundation, "You assume the final arbiter on determining whether a law passed in Pa. is a tax or a fee is Grover Norquist. Frankly, after experiencing the meeting in D.C. with Grover at the helm, I question the wisdom of any Pa. legislator who abrogates his constitutional responsibility by asking permission from an elitist Washington think tank to vote a piece of legislation."
We couldn't have said it better.
The Republican Party likes to point out where the federal government is overreaching in interfering with people's lives; yet some lawmakers, including Corbett, seem fine with a Washington, D.C., lobbyist meddling in Pennsylvania politics and policy.
Something is terribly wrong with this picture.
Pennsylvania is the birthplace of this nation's democracy, where our forefathers threw off the shackles of colonialism. Today's lawmakers should not be so quick to yoke themselves to another master through a pledge.
The times we live in call for leadership and tough choices.
We will certainly need that with this year's tough state budget.
It is one thing to have guiding principles, but it is a mistake to sign a pledge that makes things black and white in a world where things are rarely that defined.
Rep. Boyd even went so far as to admit he only signed the pledge because he was forced to do so to get in the door of a conservative political event.
Voters are not looking for foolhardy pledges.
They are looking for good ideas and results.
- The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News