There was a marvelous letter to the editor in the Dec. 25 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette which I wish I had wirtten, in which the writer asks why our Republican-controlled state government is not working to produce and approve a Constitutional Amendment to reduce the size and expense of our bloated General Assembly, an initiative which it is widely believed would be overwhelmingly approved by the voters.
Pennsylvania's House and Senate operate at a cost of about a third of $1 billion per year. Millions of dollars of our money have been spent to defend those members charged with public corruption, many of whom are now imprisoned. We have 203 House members and 50 Senators, more than almost every other state, and our "leaders" are second in compensation only to those of the state of California. The lavish pension plan afforded state elected officials enables them to retire after 33 years of service at approximately 100% of their highest annual salary, providing a perverse incentive for their work in the Legislature to become a career and for them to serve for life. (The pension multiplier for state legislators is 3 (per year), meaning that one who retires after 33 1/3 yers of service would retire at 100% of the average of their highest three years compensation.)
The unwieldy number of House and Senate members makes it more difficult to pass important legislation.
A gigantic sized House and Senate was designed for a pre-Internet era and one in which there was much more personal interaction between elected official and constituent than is necessary today.
If the governor and the General Assembly are serious about reducing expenses and making state government more lean and efficient, they will put their money where their mouth is. I do not accept that the governor is powerless to act. He has the benefit of his gubernatorial "bully pulpit" and the means to exert some leverage with House and Senate members. If the executive and legislative branches of state government do not see the need to reduce the size of the House and Senate, then the seriousness they profess about enacting fiscally-prudent measures should be considered farcical.