An early Christmas present for our larcenous legislators?
Christmas comes early — and often — for the members of the Pennsylvania legislature. You didn’t think that an angry mob of voters was going to keep the larcenous legislators from lining their own pockets, did you?
Sure they repealed the July 7 pay raise as the noose tightened around their political necks, but they do not intend to part with the 3.6 percent pay raise they refer to as a cost-of-living increase. And where else but in the Pennsylvania legislature can you be on a two-week Thanksgiving break when your pay raise kicks in? They don’t even have to show up for work and they still get paid more for it.
The latest pay raise was put into place 10 years ago — the last time the legislators raided the public treasury — giving themselves immediate pay raises of 18 percent and enacting an automatic cost-of-living increase every year unless the legislators vote not to accept the higher pay. For the 10th year in a row, the legislators forgot to vote against the automatic pay raise. What’s in your wallet?
The legislators promised in 1995 that they would never seek or approve another pay raise for themselves as long as they could get an annual cost-of-living increase based on the inflation rate in Philadelphia. That "promise" apparently came with an expiration date. The July 7, 2005, pay raise vote by many of the same politicians who pledged 10 years ago never to give themselves a pay raise shows you can’t trust anything the Harrisburg Hogs say.
Our lawmakers have morphed into a permanent class of professional politicians, a legislative aristocracy if you will. Sadly, more than 90 percent of these freeloaders are reelected year after year. Two-thirds of them didn’t even have an opponent the last time they ran. That must change in 2006 or Pennsylvania is doomed.
Have state legislators enacted property tax reform in the past 10 years? No. Have they addressed Pennsylvania’s declining infrastructure? No. Are they willing to pass up donations from insurance industry lobbyists to place controls over skyrocketing health insurance premiums for Pennsylvania workers? No. Have they found a way to adequately fund public education, mass transit and libraries? No, no and no! Have they doubled their pension, upgraded their perks and given themselves pay raises for 10 consecutive years? Yes, yes and yes!
In the past decade, the legislature’s cost-of-living scam has increased base legislative salaries by 25 percent. As of Dec. 1, the base pay for a Pennsylvania legislator jumps from $69,647 to $72,300. Not bad for a part-time job (an average of 77 days a year spent in Harrisburg). Compare that to the median income in Pennsylvania of $42,950.
And does anyone buy the "we’re on call 24/7" rubbish that many of these arrogant public servants are spouting? When was the last time a state senator was called out at 3 a.m. to fight a fire? They’re not police officers. They’re not firefighters. They don’t work round-the-clock unless you count attending Kiwanis or Rotary breakfasts as work. Let’s just say there’s no heavy lifting involved in being a state legislator — if you don’t count picking up their big fat paychecks or their $129 daily meal allowance.
If you believe the legislators are truly contrite about the four-month pay-heist fiasco, you deserve the next tax increase Ed Rendell will sign into law if he remains in the governor’s mansion beyond 2006.
If you pull a bank heist and drop the money as police are chasing you down the street, you’re still going to go to jail for robbing the bank even though you didn’t get to keep the money. If you kidnap someone and have a change of heart, returning the hostage unharmed, you’re still facing kidnapping charges.
And don’t forget that more than 100 legislators have refused to pay back the extra money they reaped over the past four months as "unvouchered expenses" when they circumvented the state Constitution to collect the pay raise early. That’s about $4,000 per legislator.
Just because they voted to repeal the pay heist doesn’t mean they still didn’t stick up every Pennsylvania taxpayer in the middle of the night on July 7. Sorry won’t cut it. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Would you take a convicted criminal into your home? So why keep the larcenous legislators in the people’s house any longer?
The only way to reform Harrisburg is to run 99.9 percent of the current legislators and the governor out of town. That’s the only way you can protect you and your family from future assaults.
All 203 members of the House face reelection in 2006. At least 200 of them don’t deserve to return to Harrisburg. And 25 of the 50 state senators face the voters next year. At least 22 of them should be voted out. I’ll let you know soon which legislators deserve another chance in 2006. And let’s not forget Gov. Ed Rendell who signed the pay heist into law on July 8 and defended it for months before caving to public pressure. Pennsylvania has no future with Fast Eddie Rendell at the helm.
E-mail Tony Phyrillas at firstname.lastname@example.org