Citizen Mike

Any time I write about the Legislature and it's size, spending and wasteful ways, I think of Sen. Mike Folmer of Lebanon.

He's the son of a grocer. He worked his way through college selling produce door-to-door. He's a former Lebanon City Council member and a former Democrat who ran as a Republican in 2006 and beat then-Senate GOP Leader Chip Brightbill in the wake of the Legislature's 2005 pay grab.

He ran as "Citizen Mike," making a case that lawmakers need to live and think like ordinary citizems.

And he does. Here's his Op-Ed piece for the Harrisburg Patriot-News in which he explains the state budget in plain language, giving some of the huge numbers context.

But what struck me in the piece is his recounting his own conduct since first elected and how the piece shows him to be both a rational thinker who understands that simply cutting back the perks of office won't solve the state's fiscal woes and, at the same time, someone tuned-in enough to public frustrations to do just that.

Folmer opted out of both the generous legislative pension plan AND the very generous health care plan. He gives his automatic annual salary increase back to the state. He doesn't accept per diem expenses. He doesn't use a state car or charge for mileage while traveling in his district.

I'm not talking about his politics here. I'm talking about his conduct. Too often, those of us who write about the game of politics tend to paint its players with broad strokes and rarely in flattering colors.

Sometimes it's helpful to remember not every player deserves the derision the game so often invites.

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