By: Mike Manzo
My mind works like a jukebox that gets triggered by simple words or phrases. Some days it can be a real curse, for obvious reasons. For instance, walking out of a completely unproductive meeting, sometimes I find myself unconsciously singing “Sooooooooy, un perdedor…”
This morning was Governor Tom Wolf’s last budget address and some of my colleagues and I were discussing what initiatives he was going to push for his final year. Among them were the old favorites: more money for education, a higher minimum wage, and a cut in the state’s corporate tax rate. Walking away all I could hear was Trent Reznor in my ear singing “every day is exactly the same.” Fun fact, the Nine Inch Nails creator was born in New Castle and grew up in Mercer!
The impetus for this particular post is a memory I have of a budget negotiation that ran well past midnight back in 2005. I was sitting on a senate balcony with my GOP counterpart Brian, and I had my iPod playing a new Foo Fighters release called No Way Back. As negotiations broke down for what seemed like the 50th time, all I could hear was “Pleased to meet you, say your prayers. There is no way back from here.”
So, without further ado, here is my head’s playlist from today’s address.
Editor’s Note: I am a huge fan of 90s alternative rock, so don’t expect a lot of blues or pop.
Wolf opens by noting it was seven long years since his first address, and how much has happened since. Cue Lenny Kravitz: “I was born, long ago. I am the chosen, I’m the one.”
The speech shifted swiftly to what a deep, dark Pennsylvania that Wolf had inherited in his first year. Lotsa talk about digging out of fiscal holes, so why not Alice in Chains’ “Down in a Hole”?
But, Wolf said, Republicans and Democrats stuck together, didn’t give up and worked some things out, which screams, “can’t forget we only get what you give!” The New Radicals, ladies and gentlemen, and maybe a good admonition for the coming year.
They did some good along the way. Cut the prison population, invested in alternative energy and worked for a sustainable future so that Belly could “Feed the Tree.”
Now back to more Rainy-Day Fund talk. Sounds like Natalie and her 10,000 Maniacs are back, “just thinking about the weather.” Wolf points out that he wants to put even more into that fund to ensure that there will be No Rain for Blind Melon.
Onto plenty of talk about education, basic and higher. This is where 90s rock gets dicey, since most songs about education were pretty dark (see: Pearl Jam, Jeremy). With all due respect to Pink Floyd, we went with Anthem by Good Charlotte, since they effortlessly weaved education and jail cells (criminal justice reform anyone?) together.
And what is a Wolf speech without a nod to the minimum wage increase? Sure, we could go the easy route and call on Blake Shelton to tell us all about it, but instead, we stuck to the 90s and York’s own Live, who sang Waitress to remind us all that everybody’s good enough for some change. Some fu$%ing chaaaaaaaange!
Wolf then gets into the current political climate and his desire to see a more civil discourse. Towards the end of this passage, he makes a remark about power for power’s sake and immediately we hear Rage Against the Machine telling us to “take the power back!”
But wait! As the speech winds down, Wolf reminds us (again) that we are out of the hole and it's time to make new investments. What would a list of holes look like without Black Hole Sun? It would not make the late Chris Cornell happy; we know that.
The governor wraps up with a touching ode to the first lady, a heartfelt thanks to staff and legislators, and somewhere in the back of my head I hear Billy Jo and Green Day telling me “I hope you had the time of your life.”
Yeah, it’s a curse.