Unreformed Democrats, Pennsylvania Statewide Edition
by Chris Bowers, Thu Aug 11, 2005 at 08:00:14 AM EDT
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.