Monday, May 25, 2015

Lest We Forget

The sixth anniversary of the state legislature's pay grab prompts reform groups to remind us we're still paying.

Lest We Forget

Hey, kids, yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the infamous 2005 late-night pay grab by your esteemed state legislature, and reformers are reminding us we're still paying.

Leaders of activist groups Rock the Capital and Democracy Rising held a Capitol news conference yesterday to note that even though the raise was repealed four months after it was enacted -- due to widespread public outcry -- many lawmakers got a "pension bounce" from the short-term salary gain.

A full report is available on the Rock the Capital website.

And even as memory of the pay grab fades, it's important to note lawmakers continue -- even as they slash social services, public school funding and aid to higher education -- to collect per diems without showing how (or if) they spend them and continue to pay just 1 percent of their salaries for primo health-care benefits AND collect fat pensions.

The anniversary got scant media coverage, but here's a piece that ran in the Harrisburg Patriot and one from the online Pa Independent.

Also, Rock the Capital's report lists the highest pension lump sum payouts for recently retired lawmakers. Philly can take pride in the fact former state Rep. Frank Oliver wins the prize with $416,000. The Senate winner is former state Sen. Bob Mellow of Lackawanna County with $330,915.

They both, I'm sure, thank you.

The report also notes 60 lawmakers, past and present, took the raise and never paid it back.

"The average annual taxpayer bill is about $1.6 million to pay a pension for people who in my mind committed a crime by taking the pay raise and never paid it back," said Rock the Capital's Eric Epstein.

And the groups urge the state attorney general's office to continue its "bonusgate" probe of the legislature, noting a statute of limitations expires this year.

The A.G.'s office tells WHYY an investigation continues but declines comment.

I don't, however. Too many electeds in both parties cashed in on what was basically a late-night theft of public dollars. Be nice to see some pay back, eh? GRRRR!





Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

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