Unreformed Democrats, Pennsylvania Statewide Edition

This is probably already old news to most Pennsylvania readers, but I still think it is important to write about: Public outrage over a hefty pay raise Pennsylvania lawmakers voted themselves a month ago -- in the dead of night -- has nagged them throughout their summer vacation and shows no signs of going away.

Not only did legislators increase their salaries 16 percent to 34 percent to at least $81,050 -- more than any state except California -- they crafted the package in secret without debate or public scrutiny, then left town.

Even more galling to Pennsylvanians, lawmakers found a way around a constitutional provision barring them from collecting any salary increase during the term in which it is approved. The pay raise bill -- based on the authority of a court ruling nearly two decades old -- lets lawmakers start collecting the raises 16 months early.

Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature, and Ed Rendell signed the bill into law. Further, here's the kicker:In a show of party discipline, the Democratic leader in the Republican-controlled House ousted from committee posts more than a dozen Democrats who voted against the bill. In their place, he put only those who voted for it, entitling them to extra leadership pay. This is what the Democratic caucus decided to enforce party discipline on? Truly and utterly stunning. If you ever wonder why a state that has a positive Democratic partisan index since 1952 hasn't elected a Democratic Senator since 1962, now you know. It's one thing to argue that the pay raise was justified--at least you can make an argument for that. However, to strip Democrats of the committee positions because they thought it was a bad idea in a state repeatedly facing a budget crisis and where lawmakers already had a cost of living increase figured into their salaries, that is just grotesque.

Tags: Democrats (all tags)

Comments

14 Comments

Wow
Excellent call on the "party discipline."  Dems need to exert party discipline on issues, not on benefits.
by nathan 2005-08-11 08:32AM | 0 recs
It was 15 House Democrats. . .
That were striped of chairmanships that were given to dems that voted yes to the pay raise.  
There is a group dedicated to defeated every single incumbent legislature: http://www.pacleansweep.com/main.html
by Painter2004 2005-08-11 08:59AM | 0 recs
Wow
This is what the Nevada State Legislature did in the late 80's or early '90s.  This was seen mainly as a greedy legislature move, and It passed by over-riding the Governor's (D) veto. However, the next election cycle clobbered almost everyone (both parties)who voted for the raise.  

Start lining up the primary opposition (dems) to everyone who voted for this increase, no matter how 'justified'.  I predict that a lot of people will be loosing their jobs. Progressive Reform Candidates should fare well against the Republicians too.  

In a single action your legislature has planted the seeds for an electorial bloodbath.  This is a great opportunity for the progressive forces in the state to force reform in the old party machine, and pick up a bunch of seats in the process.

Study what happened in Nevada, It's a valuable lesson, and a planning playbook.

by NvDem 2005-08-11 09:00AM | 0 recs
Even Worse
One of the demoted chairmen (Greg Vitali, who has represented a majority Republican district for seven terms, and who won over 60% of the vote in his last election) criticized the demotion on the record in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Shortly thereafter, he was notified that a reimbursement request to the party for costs related to a mailing, for which he had previously received verbal approval, was now being rejected.  Coincidence?

The minority leader is William DeWeese.  I mention his name so everyone knows who has to be removed from power.  The Democrats can't afford such poor management from Harrisburg anymore.

by looking italian 2005-08-11 09:21AM | 0 recs
do't be so quick...
... to criticize Governor Rendell.  He signed the bill because it included a pay raise for the judiciary.  He has said publicly he did not believe the legislature needed one and that he would sign a bill to repeal the legislative pay raise.

He also has come out against the Minority Leader and the ousting of democratic committee leadership.  He asked DeWeese to reinstate them and DeWeese would not.

by smm401 2005-08-11 09:37AM | 0 recs
Re: do't be so quick...
"He also has come out against the Minority Leader and the ousting of democratic committee leadership."

That's fine then. I still think he was wrong about the pay raise, but the real scorn goes to DeWeese. Yuck.

by Chris Bowers 2005-08-11 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: do't be so quick...
Does PA's governor have Line Item Veto power?

If so, Couldn't he have used that to allow only the judiciary to get the raise and nullify the legislature from getting it?

by avagias 2005-08-11 01:30PM | 0 recs
DeWeese should be challenged for party leader
This whole thing could have been blamed on the corrupt Republicans who control the state legistlature. But instead, he IDIOTICALLY made it about the Democrats. What a total looser. I doubt he really thought any constient might give a damn and applaud citizens who thought the pay raise unreasonable.
by AnneinPhilly 2005-08-11 10:21AM | 0 recs
I know no one wants to hear this
Is it any wonder that folks on the Dem/Green divide are persuaded by the "no difference between the two parites" argument?

Or, more importantly (electorally), why Dem/Rep swing voters ARE swing voters?  Now, instead of being won over by Dems on a public integrity, shared-sacrifice, anti-selfish platform, those folks will move to other issues (abortion, gay marriage) to make their decision.

My armchair political advisor two cents to Rendell is to make this an issue in 2006 by demanding the legislature repeal that portion of the pay raise he didn't like.  He should flail BOTH Reps and Dems for supporting this.  It seems an easy thing to do that could go a long way to appealing to swing voters of the moderate and leftist varieties.

by Kumar 2005-08-11 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: I know no one wants to hear this
My armchair political advisor two cents to Rendell is to make this an issue in 2006 by demanding the legislature repeal that portion of the pay raise he didn't like.  He should flail BOTH Reps and Dems for supporting this.  It seems an easy thing to do that could go a long way to appealing to swing voters of the moderate and leftist varieties.

I might be wrong, but I think he could have done that since he has a line-item veto.

by Painter2004 2005-08-11 06:21PM | 0 recs
Re: I know no one wants to hear this
I think the problem was that the pay raise wasn't
just for legistlators, but also for judges and cabinet officials. Plus, the bill had a clause if one part was struck, the raise was killed for everyone. I'm guessing if Rendell line-item vetoed
the legislators' raise, it would have killed the other ones, too.

Further, the pay raise was a bribe the governor used to get his initiatives like Growing Greener, etc, passed and funded. Daylin Leach, D-MontCo, was on WHYY's Radio Times and said right out that the only reason some Republicans voted for the budget was because of the pay raise! Otherwise, being in the minority, Dems didn't have enough votes to get Rendell's budget through.

by phillydem 2005-08-13 01:02AM | 0 recs
Line item veto?
Doesn't a PA governor have one?

Or does it not apply to the salary hike bill?

by johnsmith0903 2005-08-11 11:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Line item veto?
The Governor does have line item veto authority when it comes to the budget, not in this case though since it was a seperate bill.  It was bundles with judicial pay raises and since he advocated that, he would not veto it.
by smm401 2005-08-11 12:19PM | 0 recs
Rumor has it
Rumor has it that behind closed doors, BOTH the R and D leadership agreed to punish/discipline those who voted against the raise without express permission from leadership to do so. (First termers were allowed to vote "no".) But, when it came to do it, DeWeese did and Perzel didn't. So, DeWeese got snookered, but of course can't back down.

DeWeese has really been stupid here. The GOP wanted a raise, they likely had enough votes to pass it. Why not just sit back, take the raise and then beat the GOP over the head with it next election?

After 2002, there was a LOT of discontent with both DeWeese and Veon and their leadership of the caucus based on the HDCC's inability to win any open or contested state house seats. Both men barely held on to their leadership posts. I wouldn't be surprised to see another leadership challenge.

by phillydem 2005-08-13 01:13AM | 0 recs

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