Teachers have been furloughed across the state of Pennsylvania, not just in the Warren County School District. Services have been curtailed in a variety of areas, many of them resulting in harsh consequences for local governments and individuals, all in the name of deficit avoidance.
And yet, the business of state government goes virtually untouched.
Pennsylvania taxpayers pay the tab for the most expensive - and in many cases, most inefficient - legislature in the nation.
The state General Assembly has 253 members, 203 in the House and 50 in the Senate. The base pay for the rank and file members is closing on $80,000 a year, plus a per diem of $154 for actually taking a seat in their respective chambers. The pension for a comparatively brief tenure is generous, the health care benefits exemplary. But in the vernacular of television gadget advertising, that's not all! Get elected and the state will pay for your transportation to and from work through a plump mileage rate and even provide you with an allowance to lease a really nice car or SUV.
Yes, the pay and the perks are lovely and expensive, but they are a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands of other people the legislature employs.
There is a bill pending in the House that would reduce at least some of those costs by reducing the number of members of the House from 203 to 153. While only a 25 percent reduction in membership (still making it one of the largest state legislative bodies in the nation), the proposal could save taxpayers millions and have minimal effect on consituent services.
Will House members vote to reduce their numbers? They haven't when the idea has been brought up in the past.
Even if the measure sailed through both houses, it would require a state constitutional amendment. That means it would have to be passed in two successive sessions. It then goes to statewide referendum and wouldn't take effect until the 2020 census.
While we believe the measure would survive a referendum, its chances of getting that far are pretty slim.