What's needed is a representative, independent commission to “reinvent” Pennsylvania's Legislature.
Not only is the General Assembly expensive, it is filled with careerists and is among the most fiscally unfree. Further, its staff is outrageously large and costly.
A Goldwater Institute study ranked states' legislatures by two factors: In “legislative careerism,” Pennsylvania came in sixth, after both New York and California; in “most for fiscal freedom,” Pennsylvania came in 32nd, ahead of New York and California.
A National Conference of State Legislatures review put Pennsylvania among states with the costliest legislatures, along with New York and California; Texas was halfway between states with traditional (cheap) legislatures and us “rich” Pennsylvanians.
Proposals now being seriously considered in Harrisburg would cut the number of state representatives from 203 to 153. Fewer reps sounds wonderful; it would save $8 million, proponents say.
These simple answers will actually add to the costs. After a few years, our legislators will plead: “We fewer state representatives must work harder to represent more people, so our travel, telephone, office costs must rise — perhaps not 25 percent, but something — or we'll not be able to do our job.” And every governor has gone along with cost/pay raises.
What we need now is an objective, independent commission to study this whole intricate mess and recommend real answers.
Peter K. Sour
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