Legislature is wrapping up; what are Pennsylvanians paying for?

Just last week, we were discussing how hard our legislators in Harrisburg are (or aren't) working:

Imagine telling your employer that from July to the end of the year, you're going to show up at the office only about 12 days, but that you expect your full pay and benefits to remain unchanged.

State capitol

How long would it take for your boss to stop laughing?

Yet that's what many of our state lawmakers are telling us as they wind down a legislative session that, by the time they leave, was scheduled to have lasted 12 days for the House and nine for the Senate. The session has been shortened because - and if you aren't laughing yet, you will now - many are heading home to their districts . . . to campaign for re-election.

But should we really judge our legislators based on how many days they're in session? Maybe we should judge by output instead. The Pennsylvania Senate wrapped up its last scheduled work day of the year yesterday. Where do we stand on some of the state's big issues?

The chamber took no action, however, on the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the proposed imposition of a tax on natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale.

Senate leaders say that if an agreement is reached with the House and Gov. Rendell on a natural-gas tax in coming days, they may yet schedule days next week to vote on the proposal.

Oh well. How about pension reform? Or reaching a decision about an independent fiscal office? From the Independent:

The state Senate on Thursday passed an amended version of the House pension reform bill, but the House is unlikely to approve the Senate amendment calling for a creation of an independent fiscal office.

Any type of pension reform appears dead for now.

The Senate lumped pension reform and the creation of a fiscal office together, making it unlikely that either will get done. House Democratic leaders say this violates the single-subject rule in the state constitution, and won't support the bill.

We don't mean to suggest that you can measure the productivity of a legislature by just counting the number of bills it passes, but some of these are issues that we're pretty certain need to be addressed. It makes you wonder why Pennsylvania has such an expensive legislature.

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