BIOGRAPHY OF STATE SENATOR VINCENT J. FUMO
Vincent J. Fumo of Philadelphia has represented the first state senatorial district since 1978. He has compiled an impressive record of legislative achievements in Harrisburg while rising to a position of leadership in the state Senate and in the Democratic caucus.
As the Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee from 1984 through 2007, Fumo played a key role in developing Pennsylvania's annual budget and establishing the state's spending priorities. He continues to be one of the Senate Democratic caucus's lead budget negotiators as a member of the Appropriations Committee. It's his job to review all legislation considered in the state capital for its financial impact on the taxpayers.
Throughout his career, Fumo has stood up for working men and women, and has urged government to play a role in raising the standard of living for all Pennsylvanians. He has fought in Harrisburg for things such as increased funding for schools, money for crime prevention, better services for disadvantaged children, a higher minimum wage for working people, state aid for cities, and help for small businesses.
Although he is a problem-solver not easily characterized as a liberal or a conservative, he believes government can be effective in addressing social problems, and in giving people the encouragement and resources they need to better their own lives.
"That's the role of a leader, to take care of people who can't take care of themselves," Fumo says. "A leader also has a responsibility to tell those people not to milk the system."
Fumo was re-elected to full four-year Senate terms six times. Although the Democratic party has held the majority in the Senate only three years since Fumo was first elected, he has been successful in shaping state law and in promoting his progressive ideas for improving the quality of life for the people of Pennsylvania. He is widely regarded as one of the most powerful elected officials in Philadelphia and the state.
In its Guidebook to the Pennsylvania Legislature 1995-96, State Net (which publishes independent profiles of lawmakers) said: "Fumo is hard-working and razor sharp. As minority chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he knows state finances better than most...He does more for the city of Philadelphia in a week, especially during budget season, than most pols do in a lifetime."
He has been dubbed "Super Senator" by the Philadelphia Daily News. In a 1993 interview published in that newspaper, former state Rep. Gerard Kosinski of Philadelphia said: "If an extra-terrestrial came down here, it wouldn't say 'Take me to your leader.' It would say, 'Where's Vince?' "
In a February 1996 series profiling the powerful people in state government, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg devoted an entire article to Fumo. Under a headline that read "One-word definition of power: Fumo," the newspaper story said "he is known as the master politician, the deal sealer, the kingmaker, arguably one of the most powerful people in state government."
Former state Rep. Peter Wambach of Harrisburg had this to say about the Philadelphia senator in the article. "He does things that a lot of other people don't. He gets things done."
One example of Fumo's ability to get things done in Harrisburg was the Uniform Firearms Act of 1995. On the often contentious and impassioned issue of gun control, Fumo crafted legislation that won the backing of gun control and gun rights advocates alike, and forged a compromise that resulted in passage of his bill. His new law was supported by both the National Rifle Association, of which Fumo is a member, and Handgun Control, Inc., the organization led by noted gun-control advocate Sarah Brady. The law is designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals without placing roadblocks to gun ownership in the way of law-abiding citizens. It requires criminal background checks for the purchase of all firearms and directs the state to create an instant background check system by 1999.
Fumo has exercised similar leadership on other issues.
When Philadelphia faced financial collapse in the early 1990s, Fumo was instrumental in getting the state to create the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (PICA), which helped return the city to sound fiscal footing.
He was also one of the first elected officials to take an active interest in expanding the ports around Philadelphia, and he played a key role, along with former Gov. Robert Casey, in creation of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority.
In 2004, he was among the chief architects of the law legalizing slot machine gambling in Pennsylvania. Fumo insisted on including important, strong regulatory and public interest provisions in the bill. He commissioned a gambling marketing study, then made sure the bill was crafted in such a way to produce at least $1 billion annually for tax relief in the state.
Senate Democratic floor leader Robert Mellow of Lackawanna County told The Patriot-News that Fumo's tenacity accounts for his influence.
"Vince is the kind of guy who, if you get into a foxhole with him, he won't let you down," Mellow said. "He is a fighter."
Fumo's attitude is perhaps best summed up by his remarks during interviews for the article: "You can achieve any success you want to achieve. As long as you are willing to work long enough and hard enough, and sacrifice enough, you can achieve anything."
Government is just one aspect of Fumo's multifaceted career. His MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School not only aids him in his work on the Senate Appropriations Committee, it also serves him well in his capacity as chairman of the board of First Penn Bank, which was founded by his grandfather in an era when Italians in South Philadelphia found it difficult to get building loans. The bank has branch offices in the city and suburbs and operates related financial services and mortgage firms.
Fumo, who put himself through Temple Law School, is now associated with the Philadelphia firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP. He specializes in litigation and administrative agency law.
He is also a licensed electrical contractor, airplane pilot and boat captain, a real estate investor, and a member of numerous boards and commissions in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Prior to his election to the state Senate, he held several staff positions in Harrisburg in the 1970s. He was chief counsel to the Committee on Professional Licensure of the state House of Representatives, chief counsel to the special committee of the state Senate investigating Farview State Hospital for the criminally insane, and deputy commissioner and later commissioner of Professional and Occupational Affairs of the Pennsylvania Department of State.
He began his professional career as a biology and current events teacher at St. John Neumann High School in Philadelphia.
Fumo was born in South Philadelphia, the son of Vincent E. and Helen Rodgers Fumo. He attended elementary school at the Academy of Notre Dame and high school at St. Joseph's Prep. He then went to Villanova, earning a degree in biology. In addition to his advanced degrees in law and business, he has done post graduate work at St. Joseph College in accounting, political science and education.
He is a member of Mensa, an organization of people who have placed in the top two percent of the population on IQ tests.
Fumo has been involved in Democratic Party politics most of his adult life. He was Democratic committeeman in the 39-A Ward of Philadelphia, then served a four-year stint as executive assistant to the chairman of the Philadelphia County Executive Committee. He is also a former Democratic 39-A Ward leader.
He is a former president of the Philadelphia Young Democrats, and a former legal counsel to both that organization and the Young Democratic Clubs of Pennsylvania. He was also the Philadelphia County coordinator of former Gov. Milton Shapp's campaign committee.
Over the past decade he has been appointed to numerous directorships, and sits on the boards of many organizations, among them the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., Independence Blue Cross, the Delaware River Port Authority, the Philadelphia Board of City Trusts, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (vice chairman,) the Philadelphia Maritime Museum, and several other historical facilities and preservation groups.
avid boater, Fumo is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the
U.S. Power Squadrons, the American Professional Captains Association,
and the Ocean City Marlin and Tuna Club., as well as a wide variety of
civic and professional organizations, including the Union League of
Fumo is the single parent of three children.
Senator Fumo's accomplishments during his 30-year career illustrate his stance on many issues. To get an indication of his legislative priorities over recent years by seeing a list of some of his achievements, click here.
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo