Refer to this Scranton Times article.
Recession? Budget Crisis? Belt-tightening? It doesn't matter all that much to our elected representatives in the State Senate, as they managed to "find" $12 million for what we refer to in Pennsylvania as WAMs (or Walking Around Money). In case you are are alien to the concept of the WAM, it's actually pretty simple: this is discretionary money that legislators can spend at will in their districts.
Grease is the word.
Yes, this is really nothing more than a way for legislators to spread the money out to buy popularity. Greasing palms? Well it seems that way to me. Yes, I know that WAM money can be used to fund reasonable, well-intentioned projects, but that's not the point; the issue here is that WE, as taxpayers, are giving blank checks to a group of people that have about the same amount of fiscal discipline as your average drunken sailor on leave in Bangkok. There should be a process whereby decisions are made on how reasonable, well-intentioned projects are funded that doesn't involve the sole discretion of one individual who has limited to no accountability (case in point: when was the last time State Senator Mellow had a credible challenge to his re-election?).
Normally WAMs represent an egregious abuse of incumbent power, but now they are also a symbol of the general disconnection between the legislature and the real world. Yes, while you and I are busy trying to find ways to tighten our belts, the Pennsylvania Legislature has decided that fiscal crisis or not, greasing the skids is still a priority. Making matters worse, if that's even possible, is the fact that Pennsylvania is the only state without a budget. This is a nice package of arrogance and stupidity on display for all the world to see.
Congratulations to Bob Mellow and his colleagues in the Senate: You never fail to fail.