PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pennsylvania has the largest full-time legislature in the country with 50 members in the Senate and a whopping 203 in the House of Representatives.
Over the years, the legislators themselves have successfully fended off any effort to reduce their numbers.
“They don’t want to do it. They want to hold on to their phony baloney jobs,” Post-Gazette columnist Brian O’Neill said.
Over the years, KDKA has done dozens of reports showing just how expensive this bloated legislature has become. The base salary of Pennsylvania lawmakers is $87,000 a year — the highest after California. They’ve also voted themselves top-shelf health care benefits, a very generous state pension and $175 a day for food and lodging.
And for all that money, the legislature is often mired in gridlock and inaction. O’Neill, who’s been calling for legislature reduction for years, says we get very little bang for those bucks.
“It can’t get out of its own way. It’s inefficient. It’s like Flounder in ‘Animal House.’ It’s fat and stupid and slow,” O’Neill said.
The latest proposal is to reduce the size of the house from 203 to 151, a measure that would save tens of millions of dollars. It passed last session and needs an affirmative vote now to be put up for a voter referendum in the spring.
It was supposed to come up for a vote last week, but in a last-minute move, house minority leader Frank Dermody amended the bill to include reducing the senate as well. And while this may look like reform, the bill’s sponsor, Jerry Knowles, says it’s really what they call a poison pill that will kill the bill entirely.
“Give the people of Pennsylvania the opportunity to decide if the House should consist of 203 or 151. All I want is an up-and-down vote and to pull such shenanigans and to do this, it denies the people of Pennsylvania that opportunity,” Knowles said.
If the un-amended bill doesn’t pass this week, there will be no referendum in the spring and most likely not one for years to come. Like it or not, you’ll still be paying for America’s largest full-time legislature.