Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The LuLac Edition #2036, April 25th, 2012

Our "Write On Wednesday" logo.



This Friday, former State Senator Bob Mellow will be sentenced in federal court. This past Tuesday, two sitting legislators were swept out of office by newcomers promising change. (The fact that the two losers had personal issues is another matter but as in the past, they could not count on their incumbency to weather the storm). House Speaker Sam Smith is already talking about trying to downsize the size of the State House and Senate. Using all that as a backdrop, I’m using an article submitted by a candidate running in the 120th District in the fall election. Aaron Kauffer makes some very good points and his article is the subject of this week’s “Write On Wednesday” 
Candidate contends legislators enjoy too many perks 
The recent scandal involving former Sen. Bob Mellow has Pennsylvania citizens outraged, and rightfully so. Too often we see elected officials abuse their power for personal gain, to the point where it is no longer a surprise, it is an expectation. These recent charges only highlight this issue. While Sen. Mellow was charged with conspiracy and improper use of taxpayer-paid staffers, he is not the only politician using our tax money for personal gain. People are outraged about his $140,000 per year pension, but all of our so-called public servants are receiving these absurd pensions and massive perk packages. It’s time for this to end. It’s a matter of principle and poor representation. This culture in Harrisburg must change, and it starts by addressing three specific areas. Per Diems. Our lawmakers receive a $163 bonus every day just for showing up to work. This can total up to $20,000 per year for each legislator. The money is supposed to be used to pay for food and lodging, but it’s often misused. Many public officials simply accepted full per diems regardless of their expenditures, giving self-serving legislators part of their “Walking Around Money” and leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. Our politicians eat lunch whether they’re at home or in Harrisburg. We shouldn’t be paying for their meals, period. Some people in our area wish they could earn $163 a day, let alone a bonus to supplement their pay. The whole per diem system must be scrapped. Health Care. Our lawmakers receive “Cadillac Health Care” benefits on taxpayer money. Although they used to get it free, legislators allege that they reformed the system. The truth is they now pay only 1 percent. I don’t consider that reform. It’s an appeasement, nothing more than politics being played with our money and our time. Increasing your premiums from zero to 1 percent isn’t a reform, it’s an insult. We expect real reform, not the perception of it. Automatic pay raises. Lawmakers receive automatic cost of living adjustments, which have been used to increase their salaries 75 percent over the last 17 years. With a single vote in 1995, our public servants ensured they would never have to hold an open vote to increase their salary ever again. No vote means no accountability, and no accountability means it’s easier to exploit the public. Now lawmakers kick back and relax as they watch their salaries increase while seniors see their Social Security rates stay the same for years. This is another example of self-service, not public service. Legislators are voted into office to carry out the will of the voters. Now I ask: Are you being properly represented when public servants pad their pockets with expansive political perks paid for by you? Sen. Mellow may have gotten caught for using legislative staff for personal gain, but our legislators have been using these perks for their own benefit for decades. It may not be illegal, but it certainly is immoral. It is an issue of principle, and we must stop these practices. We must hold our public officials accountable. This is why I am running for office. Our district needs a leader who will fight these outrageous and wasteful legislative perks. They are an insult to the citizens of our area and our first goal should be to stand up and say, “We are fed up. Enough is enough.” If elected, I will refuse the per diem, I will demand our legislators pay more for their health care plans, and I will fight to repeal the automatic COLAs. Right now, these practices show that our politicians do not answer to the voters the way they should. The connection between citizen and politician has gone from clear, to hazy, to non-existent. This must change and I am here to tell you that if I am elected, it will.  
Aaron Kaufer of Kingston is a Republican running for state representative in the 120th district.


At 2:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kaufer’s point about the 1995 COLA is right on target! I’ve been screaming about this since it happened and no one has paid attention. The so-called “midnight Pay Raise” of 2005 got all the attention, but the COLA vote of a decade ago cost us taxpayers far, far more in the long run – and continues to cost us more every single year. And he’s exactly right, it allowed legislators to get a raise every single year without having to take the heat of voting themselves a hike every single year. And this crap that several lawmakers try to use every year – “I didn’t taker the COLA, I gave it to charity” – is bogus. First of all, we don’t know whether they really did give it to charity. And secondly, even if they did, it raises their pension anyway, so they get it back in spades over the years. This COLA must be repealed. To me, that was by far the most scandalous vote the General Assembly has ever taken – for bigger than the “Midnight Pay Hike,” which guys like Gene Stilp are still trying to make hay of all these years later. Kaufer is also right about the per diems – they should go. Look, being a legislator is a tough and important job. I have no problem with them making a good salary. The office (offices?) demands (demand?) it. But getting an automatic raise every single year, and basing the size of that raise on a different CPI than things such as Social Security COLAs – is way over the top. And getting a per diem for simply driving to work a distance IS a public rip-off.
Two PS‘s -- #1 – Yonki, I already miss you on Topic A. #2 – In an earlier post, someone said some very nice things about me on WILK. Thank you very much.
L. A. Tarone


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