A bill from state Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill County, would change the way Pennsylvania selects a lieutenant governor, LNP reported Wednesday. Currently, the governor and lieutenant governor are chosen separately in primaries by their party’s voters before becoming a team in the general election. Argall’s bill would allow gubernatorial candidates to choose their running mates, much like presidential candidates choose their vice presidential running mates.
OK, that might be a bit strong and somewhat premature, but at least we left off the exclamation point. At the very least, how about “Hear, hear!”?
It did our hearts good to see former Pennsylvania lieutenant governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, sitting at a conference table at last week’s hearing and agreeing that ending the so-called “arranged marriage” between the governor and his No. 2 is the right thing to do.
“The time has come to correct this aberration of electing these two people independently and hoping the best in what amounts to a shotgun marriage,” said former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel, a Democrat who served under the late Gov. Robert P. Casey.
“As history has shown us, sometimes teams become true partners and sometimes they don’t,” said former Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, a Republican who served under Gov. Tom Corbett. “Do I think that in the end there is a greater likelihood of a cohesion under this proposal? Certainly. But just like everything else there are no guarantees.”
We understand, but it’s a risk we’re willing to take.
As bad gubernatorial marriages go, Pennsylvania’s current iteration is right up there. Don’t look for a photo of Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack splitting the wishbone at Thanksgiving dinner.
Remember, Argall’s legislation was triggered by the revelation that Stack was under investigation by the Office of Inspector General for mistreating and verbally abusing his mansion staff (that’s a state-funded mansion and staff) and security detail.
A House committee is also looking into Stack’s grocery bills after The Caucus, an LNP Media Group publication covering state government, reported that Stack spent $30,000 on groceries as part of a $73,000-plus credit card tab for food and beverages since taking office in 2015. Strip steaks, duck breast, jumbo lump crab meat — sweet.
Wolf subsequently stripped Stack of his security detail and cut his mansion staff in half back in April.
We’re not exactly going out on a limb in saying that Wolf and Stack have something less than a healthy working relationship.
In fact, sufficient evidence exists that the two can’t stand each other.
So, why were they manacled together in the first place? The short and unsatisfying answer is it’s in the state constitution. Argall’s bill would require passage by the Legislature in two consecutive sessions, and then voters would need to approve it in a statewide referendum. That sounds like a lot of trouble and effort, but we believe it’s well worth it.
Lancaster County’s state Sens. Ryan Aument, R-Landisville, and Scott Martin, R-Martic Township, support the legislation, LNP’s Sam Janesch reported last week.
It’s time for the Legislature to do this, and it should be a bipartisan effort.
A gubernatorial candidate should be allowed to pick his or her own running mate. This would greatly enhance the possibility that the two can work together and actually get things done.
After the news of Stack’s alleged foibles broke, we received questions from readers such as, “Why do we need a lieutenant governor anyway?” and “What does he actually do to justify a mansion and security detail?”
The Stack mess makes those questions more difficult to answer. The answer to the second question is that the lieutenant governor’s primary role is to preside over the state Senate and the Board of Pardons. He also has the ability to cast a tiebreaking vote in the Senate, although that still doesn’t justify a taxpayer-subsidized house and security team.
But unless the state allows the governor to choose someone with whom he or she can work, coming up with an answer to the “Why?” question will require some rhetorical gymnastics.
The last thing a state that took three months to find a way to pay for a budget needs is a well-compensated official who appears to have no meaningful responsibilities.
To our Legislature: Let the governor choose his or her running mate. Expand the lieutenant governor’s role. Let him earn his $162,000 per year. Heck, you can even auction off his mansion, as one lawmaker suggested.
Can we get an amen?