I've been telling readers for years that Berks County has some of the worst elected state officials in Pennsylvania. A new assessment of the voting records of all Pennsylvania lawmakers by an independent watchdog group confirms my views.
PACleanSweep, the non-partisan organization that helped Pennsylvanians begin to reclaim state government after the July 2005 pay raise, released a report card Monday for all members of the General Assembly, issuing a final grade to each according to their performance.
Three Berks County lawmakers received some of the lowest scores in the PACleanSweep report card: State Sen. Michael A. O'Pake, D-11th Dist., and state Reps. Tom Caltagirone, D-127th Dist., and Dante Santoni Jr., D-126th Dist.
The PACleanSweep assessment basically looked at whether elected lawmakers voted to help themselves or respond to constituents. It's clear that O'Pake, Caltagirone and Santoni are working for themselves and not the people of Berks County.
All three career politicians — with a combined 83 years of collecting money from taxpayers — will stand for re-election in 2008.
Caltagirone and Santoni were among the 10 lowest-ranked legislators on a list of 203 members of the House. O'Pake was among the 10 lowest-ranked senators in the 50-member Senate.
Two other Berks County lawmakers who appear headed for bad grades are too new to score in the rankings, but based on their voting patterns so far this year, you'll be able to add Rep. David Kessler, D-130th Dist., and Rep. Tim Seip, D.-125th, to the list of lousy legislators from Berks.
Among Republicans whose districts come into Berks, Rep. David G. Argall received a low grade but Rep. Sam Rohrer scored high. Over in the Senate, state Sen. John Rafferty scored high. The rest of the Berks legislators were too new to make the grade.
The assessment reaches back to cover major policy initiatives enacted by the state since 1998, including the stadium funding and legislative pension increase bills under the Ridge administration, according to PACleanSweep. Also receiving attention are major initiatives advanced on Ed Rendell's watch including a 10 percent increase in the state's personal income tax rate in 2003, the slots bill and the infamous pay raise with its accompanying unvouchered expenses provisions, the organization states.
PaCleanSweep also looked at how lawmakers voted on property tax relief issues: Lawmakers' positions on three failed attempts to partially solve the continuing property tax problem over the past 10 years are taken into account, as is length of service beyond 10 years, to reflect the preference by 75 percent of Pennsylvanians for legislative term limits, according to a recent poll.
The report card can be viewed at the PaCleanSweep Web site, www.pacleansweep.com, or by clicking here View the Legislative Report Card
I recommend printing out the report card and keeping it in a safe place until next year's primary election as a reminder of which status quo politicians voters need to remove in order of reform of Pennsylvania government to take place.