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

Saturday, June 17, 2006
Posted 7:50 PM by

My dream Q&A with John Perzel

Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel simply doesn't understand the furur over last year's now-repealed legislative pay raise and still thinks lawmakers are underpaid.Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel put his pennyloafers in his mouth while defending last year's now-repealed legislative pay raise to a Harrisburg public television station on Thursday.

I haven't heard a comment this dumb since Gov. Ed Rendell said in April that he signed the pay raise because "If I didn't sign it, I might have been governor for the next five years but I would have gotten nothing done, literally, because I need the cooperation of the Legislature. ... So you have to kiss a little butt."

Anger over the pay raise is credited with the defeat of a sitting Supreme Court justice in November and for the ouster of 17 incumbent lawmakers - including the state's top two Republican senators - during last month's primary.

Yet, during a rare live interview on WITF-TV's "Smart Talk" public affairs program, Perzel proved he's not that smart by saying the 11 Republicans who lost primaries suffered mainly because the House did not tackle property taxes before the election, not because they voted for or accepted the 2005 pay raise.

Here's what I would have said had I been the host of the program:

"We have roughly 30-some members who can't apply for a credit card because their credit's so bad."

So we should give them more money to blow?

How the hell did they get elected? Perhaps that information should be made mandatory for elected officials.

Are any of them on the budget committee? Could you please name them.

Come to think of it, how the hell do you know? That information is privileged and its wrongful disclosure is a crime under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

(Perzel's spokeswoman, Beth Williams, told the Associated Press on Friday the speaker was repeating "anecdotal information" given to him by a senior House official. She declined to identify the official and said Perzel did not know the names of legislators with supposed credit problems.)

"And I know a lot of people out there watching this show have the same exact problem."

But you'd tax us even more, nevertheless, and give yourselves a raise.

"When I see that a tattoo artist in the city of Philadelphia makes more than a legislator, I think there's a problem."

(Most tattoo artists told the Philadelphia Inquirer they don't make close to the $72,187 state legislators made this year, even though their raise was repealed.)

But they're creative artisans who work in the private sector and and actually produce something that the public wants.

John, you make $20,000 just for sitting on the board of the private prison management firm, GEO Group Inc, plus thousands more for every meeting you attend.

Why don't you give up that post to a tattoo artist? He could even be an inmates' representative on the board.

"I thought the members of the General Assembly were worth one-half of what a member of Congress makes."

If that's how you'll take your payment, get me a machete.

I'm sure there's few Congresspeople who wouldn't be missed if I David Copperfielded 'em.

Perzel told WITF that if he had it to do over again, he would make sure the pay raise was debated during the day rather than passed in the middle of the night.

He didn't mention anything about the fact that there was no public debate on the bill allowed.

Perzel also said the General Assembly has heard from constituents and "the public will never see another pay raise in their lifetimes."

The episode of "Smart Talk" will be rebroadcast Sunday at noon on WITF-TV.


To hear an MP3 of some of Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel's comments, click here.
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