"What's black and white and read all over?"

Friday, December 02, 2005
Posted 5:40 PM by

Pa. lawmakers keep raises - after voting them down

The house of cards Pennsylvania legislators have built for themselves is starting to fall inside the dome of the state capitol building.A bonus is usually a reward from an employer for a job well done, a sign of appreciation or simply a thank you.

Never in the history of modern politics - save for a brief period under Tammany Hall - have lawmakers given themselves one. Then, there's the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Under mounting pressure from constituents, state lawmakers rescinded a raise they voted themselves a couple weeks ago. But about half of them took the money - up to $9,000 - in advance as unvouchered expenses. And more than half of those swine are now refusing to pay it back.

One ballsy taxpayer advocate, fellow blogger Gene Stilp, sued, arguing it was against the state Constitution for legislators to take a raise midterm.

Ironically, on the same day some lawmakers said they had already spent their extra cash, Commonwealth Court Senior Judge James R. Kelley dismissed Stilp's case, saying there is no legal controversy left for the court to settle.

Meanwhile, taxpayers are left playing detective to find out the names of at least 14 state senators and 99 representatives who took the money and are not paying paid it back.

Brian Preski, House Speaker John Perzel's chief of staff, had the chutzpah to tell the Associated Press that lawmakers made "personal decisions" about whether to support the pay raises and that their decisions about whether to pay back any extra money are equally private.

"I just don't think it's right" to unilaterally release that information, he said.

Both Preski and his boss deserve to get tossed out on their asses.

It also seems high time to eliminate the Legislature's exemption from the state's Open Meetings or Sunshine Law - which allows lawmakers to meet in secret caucuses. They obviously can't be trusted to behave like public servants behind closed doors.
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