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Rock the Capital and Democracy Rising held a Capitol news conference yesterday to note that even though the raise was repealed four months after it was enacted -- due to widespread public outcry -- many lawmakers got a "pension bounce" from the short-term salary gain.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

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