Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Throw 'em all out - Letters in the Trib go 1, 2, 3 and Brian O of PG tells it best

Throw 'em all out - PittsburghLIVE.com
It is time for all taxpayers to become diligent voters and vote against all incumbent members of the state House and Senate.

See comments for each letter, all strong. The tide is rising.


Anonymous said...

Throw 'em all out

It is time for all taxpayers to become diligent voters and vote against all incumbent members of the state House and Senate.

These people are no more than common criminals in my eyes, because they deliberately circumvented the state constitution to vote themselves a huge pay raise with a nifty cost-of-living clause ("Lawmakers OK 16 percent pay hike," July 8 and TribLIVE.com).

And don't be fooled by the ones with the "no" votes; none of them stood up to their colleagues. It was their obligation to stand up and say, "This is wrong." The "no" votes were for public relations purposes only.

Merely casting a vote against the raise does not get them off the hook. No, they all are to blame, every single one of those thieves.

How they look themselves in the mirror every morning is beyond me. But, of course, if they had any conscience at all, they wouldn't be parasite politicians.

Rich Mazza, Mt. Pleasant

Anonymous said...

Throw 'em all out II

How dare they? A raise on top of a fully paid health insurance, a $650/month expense for a vehicle, a $129/day expense while in session and an incredible pension plan -- how nice for them!

And please don't tell me about the reps who voted no; they didn't protest too much. If they really were against this raise, I think the session would have been a little longer than 15 minutes; that tells me not one of them put up an argument. They are laughing at us the whole way to the bank.

We cannot allow this type of selfish, irresponsible behavior anymore. No more incumbents. Let's show them, in the only way we can, how much we are against this. Vote them out!

Karla Thomas, Greensburg

Anonymous said...

Face it and print it: Pennsylvania is a corrupt state!

Lynn Ford, Gibsonia

Anonymous said...

Legislators' pay raise: It's not just peanuts

Sunday, July 10, 2005
By Brian O'Neill

On the very day we hear that USAirways no longer has the dough to pass out little bags of pretzels, we learn that America's Largest Full-Time State Legislature has voted itself a 16 percent pay raise.

The symbolism was almost too perfect, too stark. A business with thousands of Pennsylvanians' livelihoods on the line must go to extraordinary lengths to survive, even as our leaders blithely pat themselves on the back with thick wads of our bills.

Neither the Senate nor the House debated their $11,000 raises publicly, but the minimum salary is now $81,000, and almost every senator with any time in Harrisburg will be paid much more than that as soon as the 2006 elections are over. Robert Jubelirer, the Senate's president pro tem, and House Speaker John Perzel will get $145,463. Other Senate leaders will also be well into six figures. Only one freshman senator is expected to have to scrape by on $81,000 and whatever coupons he might clip from his Sunday paper.

Lawmaking is a 24/7 job and the idea of riding the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Harrisburg and back twice a week is about as appealing as hives. But these folks lose me when they suggest that more pay is the only way to continue to attract "the proper type of individuals for the General Assembly," as Senate Democratic leader Robert Mellow said.

It's not as if anyone looks to get out once they're in. Indeed, an argument could be made that we should cut legislators' pay and perks if only to get fresh ideas into Harrisburg. About 98 percent of incumbent House members have been re-elected in recent years.

So why not give themselves a pay raise? "In the end, casting a pay vote is not politically suicidal," Terry Madonna, professor of public policy at Franklin & Marshall College, said. "Re-election rates are so high they're immune to a single unpopular vote."

The party caucuses protect everyone by allowing freshmen and the few in vulnerable seats to vote no, Madonna said. Party leaders have to take a stand, but they also have the most to gain. Not a single freshman Democrat had to vote for the pay hike, he said.

Some legislators are now promising to distribute the money to worthy organizations within their districts, but whether they pocket the cash or pass it around to voters, it's not likely to hurt the incumbents' chances of keeping their seats.

I once naively bought the idea that having 203 representatives in the state House made it easier for any citizen to win a seat, because the districts are small enough to allow for a door-knocking campaign. But a 2 percent turnover makes that an impossible argument to make.

So I'm thinking the audacity of this raise cries out for equal audacity on the part of the citizenry. Why not shrink the size of the state House by 16 percent? That would still leave us with 171 representatives and 50 senators. California, with nearly three times our population, has only 80 representatives and 40 state senators.

Coincidentally, a California commission voted its legislature a nice pay raise in May, taking the base salary from $99,000 to $110,880. But with less than half as many lawmakers as Pennsylvania, the cost to California taxpayers won't be as great.

I sprang my idea on Mike Veon, D-Beaver Falls, who voted for the pay raise. Veon was returning my call about casino legislation. He'd gotten only about 90 minutes of sleep -- from 7:30 to 9 a.m. -- after the all-night budget session, and his cell phone was fading in and out, so maybe it wasn't quite fair to end our discussion with this out-of-left-field query: Why not shrink the Legislature by at least as much as legislators raised their pay?

Veon said it wasn't a good idea. Such a change would require a constitutional amendment, would take years, and the savings "would be peanuts."

None of which makes this a bad idea. As the airlines have discovered, the cost of peanuts and pretzels can add up quickly. Unfortunately, the power to amend the state constitution is almost entirely in the hands of the legislators. I'd sooner bet on pretzels to fly.

(Brian O'Neill can be reached at boneill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1947.)