The Legend of Unvouchered Hollow

Columnist : Albert Paschall

Unvouchered Hollow sits on the sleepy banks of the Susquehanna River in south – central Pennsylvania. It used to be a quiet, little, out of the way state capital. There were parties and games but beyond the banks of the surrounding beltway, scant attention was paid by the outside world until the ghost turned up.

It seems that some form of poltergeist descended on the burg in the wee hours of a dreary July morning when it was least expected. It appeared after the legislature voted to give itself a huge raise bypassing the state constitution with something called unvouchered expense accounts. For those who don’t speak the strange dialect of our state capital, an unvouchered expense is a 16% to 54% salary hike for legislators and judges. When it passed a wicked spirit descended on Unvouchered Hollow.

Some say this demon is that of a past legislator upset that it didn’t get such a raise in its time. Because of the way it manifests itself I happen to believe the legend that it is the ghost or ghosts of angry taxpayers who lost their heads when they heard how big the pay hike was.

This brazen banshee turns up on radio, on TV, in newspapers and just last week haunted the halls of our own Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research. When we published our Fall Keystone Business Climate survey the ghost of the unvouchered expense had its fingerprints were all over the results.

The biggest question is who should fear it the most? Subscribers to the theory of unvouchered expenses are most likely to be its first victims. This ghoul says that a monstrous 97% of the state’s business people are violently opposed to unvoucherdness.

Even the mightiest must be trembling. Governor Rendell’s got to have some sleepless nights. Just a year before his own re-election campaign will be in high gear only 8% of the people surveyed like the way he does his job.

It’s not just in Unvouchered Hollow that the spirit speaks and the powerful cower. Last week the beast roared through sleepy Blair County too. You could hear it scream in a poll released by the highly regarded Kellyanne Conway of The Polling Company. It showed that in his home district Senate President Robert Jubelirer in the course of the just three months had lost a full 1/3 of his support as those holding a positive opinion of him plummeted from 75% to 50%. Negative views of the Senator more than doubled moving from 18% in June to 40% in October. Those are the kinds of numbers that can really scare even a 30 year incumbent.

So far this wicked entity has shown some eerie staying power. We will know soon just how strong it is. An organization has crept up around the state called Operation Clean Sweep. Intent on avenging the salary increases, it’s trying to do something that’s never been done before. On election day they want Pennsylvanians to vote against the retention of Supreme Court Judges Newman and Nigro. A State Supreme Court judge has never lost a seat in an election. If Operation Clean Sweep is anywhere near successful it will become The Legend of Unvouchered Hollow and someday the residents of that Hollow will either tremble with fear or dust off their resumes.

Albert Paschall
Senior Fellow
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.

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