While You Were Sleeping
by Paul Jacob
There's a cute Sandra Bullock movie called "While You Were Sleeping," but what happened to Pennsylvania taxpayers at two in the morning on July 7 is anything but cute. While Keystone State voters slept, their elected representatives picked their pockets for a whopping 16 to 34 percent pay raise.
What one citizen aptly called "a scandalous example of greed gone wild" happened without any debate or public scrutiny.
Under this new racket, Pennsylvania legislators rake in between $81,000 and $145,000 a year. They also get $129 a day for expenses during sessions, up to $650 a month for car expenses, gold-plated health care, and a fat pension.
Because legislators wanted their new dough right now, they also had to overcome the clear restriction in the state constitution that says they cannot take a pay increase without an election intervening first.
How'd they do it? They simply called their raises "unvouchered expenses," and began grabbing the loot immediately. A lawsuit has been filed, but don't hold your breath. The state's chief justice, Ralph Cappy, helped draw up the pay raise plan, which also gives raises to more than 1,000 judges.
Politicians have opened up a hornets' nest of citizen anger -- righteous anger that will help defeat entrenched politicians and maybe help with some reforms, too, such as term limits. Oh, and initiative and referendum -- a tool voters could use against the next legislative assault.
Legislators are still staying up late, but at least now it's because they're having trouble sleeping.
This is Common Sense. I'm Paul Jacob.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Common Sense are Paul Jacob's and may not necessarily represent the position of Americans for Limited Government, Americans for Limited Government Foundation, U.S. Term Limits or the U.S. Term Limits Foundation. Paul's Common Sense commentaries are heard on radio stations nationwide and on the Internet.