Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rock The Capitol's List Of Those Who Have Yet To Return Illegal Pay Raise

From the Post Gazette:

Rock the Capital, led by Eric Epstein, is one of the citizens watchdog groups that have criticized 60 state legislators for not returning to the state treasury the four months of higher pay they received from a controversial pay raise enacted in July 2005 and repealed in November 2005. The group released this list of seven senators, who are still in office, and 53 House members, some of whom have retired or been defeated and some who are still in office. Mr. Epstein noted that some lawmakers did donate their raise money to charities (resulting in tax benefits) but still will benefit from the "pension bump" caused by the higher salary.

The following legislators from our area on the list- Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne, House majority leader, Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Phyllis Mundy, D-Luzerne, Ed Staback, D-Lackawanna. It's amazing how a leader can't be a leader by setting an example for the rest of his pack and do what is right for the taxpayer.

More from the Post Gazette about stalled legislative pay reform.

Democracy Rising PA and Rock the Capital Tuesday challenged the gubernatorial candidates, Democrat Dan Onorato and Republican Tom Corbett, to take the lead on several upcoming reform measures, including pushing for a "limited constitutional convention."

"Citizens need a megaphone to reach our tone-deaf lawmakers, and the only one loud enough to do the job is the governor," said Democracy Rising's Tim Potts.

"Things are not going to change until we have a constitutional convention," Mr. Epstein said.

Mr. Potts and Mr. Epstein, along with Matthew Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation, said they didn't think legislators have learned much from the middle-of-the-night pay raise debacle in July 2005.

Last week, they noted, legislators waived a post-pay-raise reform measure that would have required a 24-hour delay (in the House) and a six-hour wait (in the Senate) before the state budget could face a final vote. Legislative leaders insisted their members had adequate time to review the lengthy budget bill before approving it.

The citizens groups also asked Mr. Corbett and Mr. Onorato about changes recently recommended by a grand jury that spent two years investigating the so-called Bonusgate scandal, including convening a constitutional convention, cutting the size of the 253-member Legislature and imposing term limits on lawmakers.

Mr. Onorato has said he supports a convention that is limited to certain key issues, such as a smaller Legislature, but Mr. Potts said he'd like to know exactly what issues Mr. Onorato wants to look at.

Mr. Corbett also favors a limited constitutional convention and would end unvouchered per diem payments to legislators for food and lodging. He also favors a part-time Legislature, said campaign aide Kevin Harley.

The citizens groups also want to get the two candidates' views on whether legislators should spend $42 million this year on "walking around money," for pet projects in their districts; the funds are listed under vague categories called "cultural activities," "community assistance" and "urban development."

The reform groups also want the two candidates' opinions on whether the Legislature should continue to squirrel away $200 million in a reserve account, sometimes called a "slush fund," or put most of the money back into the general budget to ease some of the reductions in departmental budgets.

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