One of the dumbest lines that clueless legislators have been using for the past few months is that the anger over the July 7 pay raise is being orchestrated by Pennsylvania newspapers. That's baloney! All you have to do is read a sampling of reader letters published in newspapers to get a sense at how angry voters are with their overpaid, underworked state lawmakers. Below is a few examples of letters submitted to The Mercury.
To Sen. Rafferty:
I would like to express my thanks for your vote against the recent Pennsylvania Legislative pay raise, your decision to not accept the raise before your next term begins and, also, for your stance against having the suburban population subsidize the inefficiencies of SEPTA. Unlike my state representative, Dennis Leh, you realize you represent the will and best interests of your constituents, not cronies in the Legislature.
Now we need your help once again to finally secure real property tax relief for the citizens of Pennsylvania; not the crumbs Gov. Rendell tried to give us in order to pass his gambling legislation. It’s obvious that Fast Eddie is pandering to the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in hope of getting re-elected and couldn’t care less about the rest of us. We need substantial property tax relief, not a someday hoped for $300 accompanied by an increase in local taxes.
The Commonwealth Caucus Plan seems to be very fair in that it abolishes real estate taxes by simply expanding the sales tax to many now exempt items and at a rate lower than the current 6%. This type of consumption tax is equitable in that you only pay according to what you spend. Please help pass this legislation or something very similar.
RICHARD J. MARTINO
Ever since that infamous night when our unscrupulous legislators voted themselves and other government officials a huge pay raise, we have seen a growing grass-roots effort by the good people of Pennsylvania to take back our government from the lying and corrupt politicians who are using the power of government for their own benefit.
The Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania (www.LPPA.org) agrees with PACleanSweep (www.pacleansweep.com) and other groups around Pennsylvania that it is time to clean up our state government. The career politicians who make up the Republican and Democratic parties have abused their positions in government, shown us they cannot be trusted, and have created a situation where it truly is "us versus them!"
It is time for "us" — the good people of Pennsylvania — to start getting rid of "them," the arrogant and out-of-touch politicians in Harrisburg.
Repealing the pay raise? Maybe! But what’s to prevent them from drafting new legislation after the election? And since the law states that the salary of judges is linked to the Legislators, they can really make out. Apparently, the state Constitution prevents legislators from cutting the salary of judges. So this raise remains and, if the legislators pass a new raise, the judges will get another increase. Looks like the judges are going to have their cake and eat it too.
As Yogi Berra once said, "It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!" We, the taxpayers, haven’t heard the end of this fiasco.
I’m glad the pay raise for Pennsylvania legislators, governor and judges, no, strike that, for some Pennsylvania government employees has been repealed. I don’t object to these people getting a raise. I object to the exorbitant raise that they voted for. I object to them using "unvouchered expenses" to circumvent the law so that they could receive the money now. I object to the "new" problem with the judges. The law states that when judges receive a raise, no matter how they got it, it cannot be taken back. Spare me! If the "officials" can circumvent the law to get their raise now, I’m sure they can find a way to get it back (from the judges).
While working for a company for 30-plus years, my highest raise was less than 15 percent (I consider promotions to be in a different class). During my tenure, the average raise was 5 percent, not 16 percent to 54 percent that these "officials" granted themselves.
Although the company I worked for paid for a portion of my insurance, I had to pay the rest including deductibles; dental and glasses were additional! Indeed, the year I retired, my company restructured the insurance programs. Of course, the increased costs were passed on to the employees. There was no raise to compensate for any portion of this. The costs of insurance to these "officials" is free including dental and glasses (and drugs?). I object vehemently to this free insurance ride.
To state Rep. Ray Bunt:
I received your latest "Newsletter." It appears you are using this propaganda to make your constituents think you are doing something for them and also for that fat raise you got.
You stated, "although I have reservations about this year’s budget…", you didn’t have too many reservations because you did vote yourself a 16 percent to 54 percent raise only to decide not to take it in advance after pressure from the voters.
I’m glad to see that $210 million will be borrowed every two years for six years totaling $625 million to be spent on environmental projects. Sounds real good but where is the money coming from to repay the loans? Could it be property tax increases!? I’m sure it’s not from your pay raise or gambling proceeds (ha! ha!).
The back page is very important. You stated, "I have recently drafted legislation that would protect consumers from computer lemons." I was under the impression that that’s what warranties were for.
The entire newsletter tries, unsuccessfully, to make you look good and is an attempt to make me and the other voters, your bosses, forget how you shafted us to line your pockets. Not one word was mentioned about your raise and if you would support a repeal vote.
I would also like to know how many taxpayer dollars were used to print up this piece of propaganda. How much was used for postage? Since you represent all the people in your district, did you send this to everyone? I know voters who have not received it.
You are calling on all veterans of WWII to return a postcard to you. Since many tax dollars were used to send out this piece of garbage, why couldn’t you pay for the postage to have these hero’s return the card? I am sure you can afford it better than them.
To state Sen. Robert J. Thompson:
I am writing to you in an effort to facilitate property tax reform. With the recent outrageous pay raise grab of July 7, 2005 in the wee hours of morning, I wish to add my protest to the mounting number of your constituents who feel that this is a violation of trust to the people of Pennsylvania who entrusted you and your fellow legislators to work in our best interests.
The property taxes in Pennsylvania are beyond outrageous! What is being done about it? Promises, promises! The school boards are holding the property owners hostage! They refuse to accept any plan to reduce property taxes and give relief to the senior citizens who worked their entire adult lives to have a happy (or at least comfortable) old age. Now, many of us on pensions and social security, and whatever savings we have managed to accrue for old age, face losing everything to the unreasonable greed of our school boards who will not release a stranglehold on the helpless property owners of Pennsylvania!
You, Mr. Thompson, as our elected spokesperson, should put more effort into relieving these persons of unnecessarily high taxes, even if it should take a closed door, middle of the night session of legislators!!
I am writing to beg you Mr. Thompson, to help your constituents! Taxes should be distributed more fairly! A sales tax, at least, would be more fair; people could have some control at least. How can we control our school board’s unremitting refusal to listen to reason?
Mr. Thompson, we seniors raised our children by the sweat of our brow, some of us through war times and depression times; it is unfair to force us to finance the demands of other people’s children after raising our own.
We want a fair tax distribution — something other than on our homes! This is unfair — help us, Mr. Thompson!
MARY ELLEN SCHNOVEL
Someone you employ embezzles your money in the middle of the night, then takes off for a two month vacation to spend it. On his return, far from being contrite, his response is a defiant "I’m in charge of your money, and if I want to take some, whaddya going to do about it?"
Then, when the heat gets too intense and he thinks he’ll lose his job, he promises to return the loot, no hard feelings, OK? I don’t know about you but I’d fire him, and I wouldn’t care how many judges he promised to divide the swag with.
So don’t let up on the pressure on our lawbreakers — I mean lawmakers. Reversing the pay grab is just the start. Let’s also insist that the job of governing the state, which a few of us think is an important responsibility, will be a full time one. If they demur, let their pay be in proportion to the time they actually spend on the job, and the bills they actually pass — you know, like the millions of hourly-paid workers who don’t get paid if they don’t show up or don’t produce. Let’s plant the novel idea in their heads that we expect them to actually do something, not just talk, endlessly. How many years has property tax relief been yammered about in Harrisburg, without any result?
Let’s insist that they pass laws to make it illegal to vote for someone else, or jam your voting machine to pretend that you were actually there. Or to have outside business interests that are affected by legislation they vote on. Or draw expense money above their actual expenses. And make them buy their own damned cars, like the rest of us, and pay the same proportion of their health plans we poor schleps have to.
Above all, let’s continue to press for a complete restructuring of the whole legislature, eliminating some 50 percent of the superfluous seats so that we have the same ratio of legislators to residents as the average for the country. We could use the money saved on, say, property tax relief.
And if they wave away such demands like a man shooing flies, if they continue to act like arrogant aristocrats and treat us like the peasantry, placid fools who can be ignored except at election time, next year let us invoke Oliver Cromwell’s denunciation when he dismissed Parliament 352 years ago: "You have sat here too long for any good you have been doing…Depart, I say; and let us be done with you. In the name of God, go!"