The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Tom Barnes says 2010 might be worse than 2009 when it comes to Pennsylvania politics.
And, 2009 was pretty bad...
Things went so poorly at the state Capitol in 2009 that it's hard to imagine they might get worse in 2010.
But it could very well happen, some observers say.
Many lawmakers will be focusing on their re-election campaigns rather than state business. Recession-wracked state revenues will continue to lag, and 1,000 state workers could be laid off soon if an agreement isn't reached on table games at casinos.
Gov. Ed Rendell could lose clout because he's a lame duck. More arrests are looming in an ongoing Capitol corruption scandal, and trials are due to start this month for some of the two dozen "Bonusgate" defendants already charged by state Attorney General Tom Corbett.
"There is no magic bullet to end the political paralysis that has enveloped Harrisburg," said Eric Epstein, of Rock the Capital, a citizens group that sprang up to overturn the 2005 legislative pay raise and continues to monitor legislative activity.
"Let's face it, we're in a funk," he added. "You can bet the house that the next state budget will not be done on time -- for the eighth straight year."
The $27.8 billion budget for fiscal 2009-10, which will end June 30, wasn't adopted until Oct. 9 -- 101 days late, a General Assembly record for procrastination. And the budget still isn't 100 percent complete; it lacks $250 million projected from a new tax on table games, which hasn't been approved yet. House and Senate leaders remain at odds over some of the details of adding blackjack, poker and other table games to slots parlors but hope to work out a deal this week.
In early February, Mr. Rendell will unveil his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. However, since he became governor in 2003, there hasn't been a complete state budget enacted on time, meaning by July 1.
Legislative leaders often don't even begin serious budget talks until June. Mr. Rendell wants talks to start earlier this year, but it's a question whether legislators can shed their foot-dragging habits.
"I'm skeptical that things will get any better in 2010 in terms of the budget," said Tim Potts, of Democracy Rising PA, who is pushing for a constitutional convention to change the way legislators do business.
"Having gone through the 2009 ordeal [with the late budget], they should be ready to try a different approach, but there is no reason to believe they will," said Mr. Potts, who once was a Democratic House staffer.
Unfortunately for Pennsylvanians, Barnes is right. There's absolutely no reason to expect things to go smoother in 2010.
Maybe, if we're lucky, our legislators will try to break their budget impasse record of 101 days (the record they set in 2009).
102! 102! 102!....