State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

WAMs: one less arrow in the quiver, one more scapegoat for failed negotiations

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 6, 2012 1:02 AM
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Gov. Corbett campaigned for office on a promise. But now he says it’s come back to bite him – and his legislative agenda. He’s sworn off the kind of grants that used to grease squeaky wheels in the state House and Senate.

They’re known as WAMs, short for “walking around money,” and they’ve been the subject of criticism that lawmakers request them from the governor to buy political support in their districts.

In a recent interview with reporters last week, Corbett acknowledged how effective they can be...

“You know, there were some bills, and I’m not going to go into which ones, all I needed was five votes,” he said. “But I had nothing to negotiate with without the WAMs.”

He claimed his legislative agenda has suffered because he’s eliminated one of the governor’s most effective negotiating tools.

“What I haven’t had with me is, ‘and here’s what I can give you right now,’” Corbett said.

House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin takes issue with the governor’s argument, but dodged the question of whether the absence of WAMs has changed the Legislature.

“It’s always easy to criticize and complain or specify what was not done,” said Miskin. “But the fact is, a lot was done.”

Some object to the governor’s characterization of WAMs as taxpayer-funded boondoggles or thinly veiled bribes. One common refrain is that they’re used to fund fire departments and other organizations that are often under-resourced.

Bill Patton, spokesman for the House Democrats says WAMs really weren’t as influential as critics made them seem. “WAMs were used in the past as a negotiating tactic but really were a minor part of the entire toolbox that governors had,” he said.

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