Commonwealth secretary makes impression with pragmatic solutions

We tend to favor plain spoken and pragmatic over politically motivated verbal hyperbole. So we liked a lot of what we heard this past week when Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele visited the Sun-Gazette for an editorial board meeting.

Aichele’s office oversees the election process, professional licensing throughout the state and a host of other activities. So while the department’s budget amounts to “a rounding error” in the state’s fiscal expenses, it touches every part of Pennsylvania in some way.

Regarding the voter identification law being reviewed by Commonwealth Court in July, she defended the measure succinctly: “If you can register to vote, you can get a state ID.”

And she believes it’s a needed requirement, commenting there has always been fraud in the voting process and that threat will always be there.

Concerned about low voter turnout, particularly in primary elections, she hinted that Pennsylvania may have to think its “closed” primary policy in the future to improve the participation percentage. In a closed primary, the growing percentage of Independent voters can’t cast a ballot.

Aichele also would like to see a state Senate bill allowing online voter registration approved. Anything that can create greater voter turnout in any election is an improvement, in our view.

Speaking on budget matters, Aichele wants to fees for lobbyist registration increased to $200 every two years to $350 a year so that revenues can meet expenses for her department. Amen.

She also defended Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget policies, past and present, particularly the spending on public education, which has increased since the governor took office. The only reason the overall spending on education is down is the end of the federal stimulus help, which all education officials were warned was only temporary. The state’s education spending has actually increased.

Aichele, a former teacher and school board member, added that schools would benefit from the revenue generated from sale of liquor stores if he state finally decides to privatize its liquor store system.

Plain spoken. Aware of everyday realities. Looking for practical solutions.

We liked what we heard from the secetary of the commonwealth.

The YWCA is the manager of the nationally recognized Liberty House program. A recent editorial misidentified the organization