By Mike Manzo

Occasionally, I am asked to translate the event at the state capital through the soundtrack of my brain which, as I have noted here before, never turns off.  Generally, I do whatever the Triad Advocacy and Communications team tells me to do.  I find it safer that way.  Soundtracking legislative action is actually an old hobby of mine, which began during some random sine die legislative session in the 1990s, where I composed all new lyrics to Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Karn Evil 9, part two.  “Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends, have some bills you can amend, sine die, sine die…” 

So, the soundtrack to this year’s budget kerfuffle is as follows: 

Despite a slim one-vote House Majority, the House Democrats hit their stride in May and started passing bills like some deranged legislative perpetual motion machine.  Ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride. Nobody gonna slow me down. Matthew Wilder, meet Matt Bradford. 

Meanwhile, the state budget sat in the chamber while folks started asking, “hey, those are all some very nice bills you have there, what about that budget thing?” Bryan Cutler, for instance, played the role of Johnny Cash (via Carl Smith) as he reminded his colleagues daily that “time’s a-wastin”.  And so, in early June, the House passed their spending plan and Jordan Harris did his best Jay-Z and said to his senate colleagues “show me what you got.”   

As is the fine tradition of the GOP Senate Majority, the upper chamber is often the saucer that cools the hot tea before drinking (thank you George Washington), and this year was no different.  Joe Pittman and Kim Ward spent some time cooling that tea before top-spin volleying that baby back towards the House, but not before channeling the Hooters, who famously asked “where do the children go?” And by where they go, we mean off to private schools of their choice. Task completed, free and easy down the road they go (thanks, Dierks Bentley).  

On their way out of town, they even threw in a nod to Green Day with a “wake me up when September ends,” by announcing they would not return until late September.  

In the meantime, all I can hear is Billy Joel telling everyone, “there’s stormfront coming.” 

Yeah, by the Fourth of July it was more like the Symphony of Destruction (thanks, Megadeath) playing in the background as Josh Shapiro found his first budget hanging by a thread.  And while we all enjoyed the holiday, it was more like ain’t no rest for the wicked (Cage the Elephant, babies) on the second floor of the main capital. And by the following Wednesday, the hard reset happened and Shapiro’s budget, sans vouchers, was miraculously (eventually?) headed to the governor’s desk. 

And while the pressure point was gone (bonus Zutons reference), not many folks outside of a very small circle were ready to head P!NK’s admonition to raise your glass. Who knows, maybe a few listened to Eric Church tell them to smoke a little smoke. 

It has been said that a good negotiation is one where each side goes home unhappy, so maybe the end product was the best we could expect.  But with code bills and college funding still in flux, there are a lot of folks in Pennsylvania more stressed out than twenty-one pilots.   

Ah, but it’s Pennsylvania, the place Toad the Wet Sprocket had in mind when they wrote that something’s always wrong.