The LuLac Edition #2036, April 25th, 2012
WRITE ON WEDNESDAY
REFORMING THE LEGISLATUREThis 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.