Matthew J. Brouillette

heads the Harrisburg-based

Commonwealth Foundation

Gov. Rendell has been treating people like pawns to be used for political leverage in pursuit of his agenda.

Last year, the governor unnecessarily furloughed thousands of state employees amid a standoff with Senate Republicans over a belated budget.

Earlier this year, Rendell used the state's doctors for leverage. With Senate Republicans resisting his plan to dramatically expand state government's role in health care, the governor rejected a reauthorization of state subsidies for medical-malpractice insurance, which is required by law.

Now, with the state staring at a projected budget shortfall of up to $2 billion by mid-2009, Rendell is withholding a modest 2.25 percent cost-of-living adjustment for nonunion state employees.

Docking the pay of these employees will save $14.5 million, which will come nowhere close to filling the budget gap. To Rendell's political benefit, however, the move creates the false perception that he has already cut state government "to the bone." That sets the stage for more taxes on working Pennsylvanians to continue funding his pet programs and initiatives.

On Nov. 7, when Rendell knew the state's budget shortfall was already north of $500 million, he announced that the commonwealth would be spending $15.6 million on "tourism promotion," including:

$100,000 for the Pennsylvania Golf Course Owners Association to promote golfing in Pennsylvania.

$100,000 for the Pennsylvania Ski Areas Association for the development and promotion of SkiPA.com.

$75,000 for the Pennsylvania Winery Association to promote Pennsylvania's "wine trails."

$50,000 for development of the Pennsylvania Culinary Society.

Of course, golfing, skiing, and touring wine trails are fine leisurely endeavors. But few would argue that they are core government services. Indeed, one Department of Public Welfare manager said, "I am angry because I feel [Rendell] personally put us here with his overspending."

It's not only overspending. It's inappropriate spending that could be going to vital government functions or the paychecks of working Pennsylvanians. But the governor has deemed other "priorities" more important than families' budgets.

In October, for example, Rendell handed out $4.6 million to the multibillion-dollar Archer Daniels Midland Co. for its cocoa-processing facility in Hazleton.

He also gave out more than a half-million dollars in taxpayer-funded early Christmas gifts to businesses, including:

$61,505 for "high-efficiency washing machines" for businesses such as Streams of Water Laundry.

$91,001 for "upgraded lighting" for businesses such as the West Branch Tennis Club.

$137,284 for "high-efficiency heating and air-conditioning equipment" for businesses such as Aurora Leigh Bed & Breakfast.

In November, the governor gave out $44 million for "recreation and conservation projects," which included:

$45,200 for snow-grooming equipment for the Forest County Snowmobile Club.

$142,500 for "workshops and technical assistance related to planting trees and shrubs as buffers along streams."

$45,000 for the development of boat launches and access along the Beaver and Shenango Rivers.

Although the governor argues that there are economic benefits to transferring income from one taxpayer to another, at least one of his grant programs has been an abysmal failure. According to his administration's own data, the $75 million Film Tax Credit - enacted in 2007 after lobbying by former state Rep. Mike Veon (D., Beaver), who was later indicted - has not produced any measurable economic benefit.

Meanwhile,

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

- a (barely) R-rated flick replete with raunch, as the title suggests - received about $5 million in tax credits. Another filmmaker who received a subsidy admitted he would make movies in Pennsylvania without subsidies or tax credits.

These are just a few examples of Rendell's misspending of our tax money. Suffice it to say there is plenty to cut in Pennsylvania's budget without affecting essential programs for citizens in need - or the state employees serving them.

For more information, see www.commonwealthfoundation.org.