Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Pay raise farce: The legislative aristocracy vs. those overpaid Pennsylvania farmers

State House Speaker John M. Perzel, the boss of bosses in the Pennsylvania Legislature, wants you to know that he works a lot harder than some lazybones farmer who get up at 4 a.m. to milk his cows.

Perzel, a Republican from Philadelphia, stood before a roomful of GOP faithful over the weekend and told them they can take their concerns about the July 7 legislative pay raise and stick it where the sun don’t shine.

Nobody works harder than John Perzel when it comes home to bringing home the bacon.

"The people in Lancaster County who milk cows are making $50,000 to $55,000 (a year). … You are paying a guy who milks cows $55,000, and (they’re) saying it’s too much to pay a member of the General Assembly half of what a member of Congress makes?" Perzel said.

Philadelphia isn’t exactly farm country, but I’m beginning to wonder what planet John Perzel is living on Guys who milk cows make $55,000 a year? The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau says the average salary for a person milking cows on a large farm is $20,500 a year. Perzel makes $145,000 under the pay raise he pushed through the legislature.

Perzel went on to say that the 16 percent to 34 percent pay raises lawmakers gave themselves were justified because politicians "work hard and make personal sacrifices to serve the people of Pennsylvania."

Never mind that legislators make at least two to three times more for their part-time jobs than the average Pennsylvania resident earns at his or her full-time job.

In another outlandish comment, Perzel called legislators "volunteers" who often have to work weekends and frequently miss "holidays" and "birthdays" in the name of public service. Pass me a tissue. I think I’m going to cry. Which are they, John? Full-time legislators who deserve to be paid a minimum of $81,000 a year or volunteers? Now, I’m really confused.

A "volunteer" is someone from the Red Cross who went to New Orleans to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. A state legislator making $81,000 to $145,000 a year for a part-time job is not a "volunteer."

If there was any doubt in your mind that Perzel and his flunkies need to be booted out of Harrisburg, his performance Saturday should put that hesitancy to rest. Perzel, a career politician whose own salary rose to $145,000 a year under the July 7 pay raise, is the poster child of everything wrong with the people we send to Harrisburg.

Not only are they not serving the people of Pennsylvania, but clearly the only concern Perzel and the rest of the legislators have is to line their own pockets.

While Pennsylvanians are struggling to make enough money to feed and clothe their children and provide shelter for their families, Perzel and the country club set in Harrisburg has lost touch with the average Pennsylvania — not to mention reality.

They’ve established themselves as new class of professional politicians — an aristocracy that is not accountable to the people. Their only purpose is to suck the lifeblood out of working Pennsylvanians.

Not only did they give themselves pay raises of $11,000 to $32,000 a year — just months after their last pay raise went into effect — but legislators also receive free health care, life insurance, a generous pension, $129 in lunch money, long-term disability insurance, an automobile allowance of $650 per month and all the free gasoline the gas tanks in their luxury vehicles can hold.

While the rest of us are scraping pennies to pay for $3 gas to get to work or take our kids to school, Perzel and the rest of the Harrisburg Hogs are riding around in SUVs and Cadillacs, with a full tank of gas courtesy of you and me.

It’s obvious Perzel has never worked on a farm. I’m not sure he’s ever worked a day in his life. Farming is a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day job. Most farmers will never see $145,000 in income in a year. The "job" of a Pennsylvania legislator consists of pushing paper around and looting the state treasury.

Over the past five years, the Pennsylvania legislature has been in session an average of 77 days a year. That’s all the time the job demands. The rest of the time, the Keystone State’s nobility are attending Rotary and Kiwanis breakfasts telling us what a wonderful job they do. Some of them take on tougher tasks such as cutting ribbons at store openings, riding around in parades or delivering oversize cardboard checks for various slush funds the legislator has created.

And if Perzel and his minions work so hard, why are we paying 3,000 other people to keep the state Capitol running? Do you think those form letters you get back when you write one of these moochers was written by them? They have staff to do the work. They have legislative assistants to draft the bills. They have aides to answer the phones and do the leg work at their district offices.

If you rounded up all 253 members of the Pennsylvania House of Lords and shipped them down South to do some honest work helping the hurricane victims, nobody in Pennsylvania would miss them. What’s there to miss? They don’t do anything.

There are close to 9 million registered voters in Pennsylvania. If 9 million people don’t show up at the polls next May to vote out every incumbent on the ballot, Pennsylvania is doomed. If we allow 253 leeches to continue to feed off the rest of us, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at


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