An editorial cartoon in The Mercury this week raised the question of whether Pennsylvania lawmakers were hearing the public outrage over the Great Pay Grab of 2005. Rest assured, they’re hearing you loud and clear.
The citizens of Pennsylvania are going to win this one. The Pennsylvania House of Lords (aka state legislature) is feeling the heat. The 253 state House and Senate members remind me of George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn. Through arrogance and audacity, legislative leaders have led their troops into hostile territory, where they are greatly outnumbered by Pennsylvania taxpayers. Like Custer, the party bosses have managed to get their forces surrounded. And we all know how the Battle of the Little Big Horn turned out.
The party bosses that masterminded the pay grab — Perzel, DeWeese, Jubelirer, Mellow, Brightbill — are losing soldiers daily. Two more legislators have changed their minds and decided not to accept "unvouchered expenses" that let lawmakers collect their new pay raises 16 months before the Pennsylvania Constitution allows, according to The (Delaware County) Daily Times. Rep. Nicholas A. Micozzie and Sen. Dominic E. Pileggi joined 12 other legislators who initially accepted and — amid a roar of public disapproval — subsequently rejected the special payments that are equal to their prospective raises, the newspaper reports.
The party bosses have circled the wagons and are preparing to fight for the pay raise to the last man. But the foot soldiers who were led into this battle with the promise that voters are too dumb to figure out what the Legislature did at 2 a.m. on July 7 or too lazy to do anything about it are deserting the Custers who led them into the quagmire. As constituents continue to confront legislators, it’s becoming every man for himself, and politicians, by their very nature, will do whatever it takes to save their own skin.
Newspapers continue to lead the charge with daily revelations of the greed and back-room dealing in the Pennsylvania House of Lords. The Mercury has collected 3,400 signatures opposing the pay grab in just 10 days. Four of The Mercury’s sister newspapers in southeastern Pennsylvania have joined the cause. We will deliver the letters to Harrisburg next month.
The number of Web sites helping organize the people’s revolt against the greedy politicians is growing. PACleanSweep.com reports 38,000 visitors to its Web site. The group has also signed up 2,200 subscribers to receive e-mail updates on the progress to clean up the mess in Harrisburg. Former state Rep. John Kennedy, who launched his own campaign to repeal the pay raise, reports 17,000 people have visited his Web site, www.declarationofaction.
The newest Web site devoted to winning back Pennsylvania from the gluttonous politicians is www.InformedPA.com. The group is planning to plaster the faces of the leaders of the pay grab on billboards across the state.
The politicians are blaming news coverage of the pay raise for stirring up the public, but as usual, they underestimate the intelligence of voters. You don’t need a Ph.D. to realize someone just reached into your pocket to relieve you of your hard-earned money. This revolt is grassroots. And voters won’t forget the pay raise when 228 of the 253 members of the House of Lords face reelection in 2006.
It’s not just the pay raise that is drawing public scrutiny. Residents are fuming about the $150,000 in taxpayer money being wasted by state lawmakers attending a junket in Seattle. Pennsylvania is sending nearly 100 delegates to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The only legislator from Berks, Chester or Montgomery counties I know went to Seattle is Rep. Dante Santoni Jr., a Democrat who "serves" the 126th District outside Reading.
Santoni, one of the drones who was promoted to a committee chairmanship when Democratic leader Bill DeWeese punished 15 Democrats who voted their conscience by not supporting the pay grab, willingly took the $11,000 pay raise and the chairmanship post, which added another $4,050 to his pockets. Santoni is also billing constituents for the $1,750 cost of attending the conference.
In western Pennsylvania, Rep. Frank LaGrotta said someone approached him in a supermarket and called him a thief for taking a "vacation" at taxpayers’ expense. LaGrotta decided not go to Seattle.
This is a defining moment in Pennsylvania history. Citizens must stand and fight the flagrant theft of public money and public trust. There are nearly 8 million registered voters in Pennsylvania.
Regardless of party affiliation, we need to work together to oust the 200 or so legislators who raided the public treasury on July 7.
Even if the 2 a.m. cowards rescind the pay raise when they get back to Harrisburg after their 10-week vacation, they will try to rob us again.
The only solution is remove them from the temptation of taking our money. Remember the pay raise! Vote them out!
E-mail Tony Phyrillas at firstname.lastname@example.org