Criticize state lawmakers all you want, but they are consistent on one point: They always reliably provide poster children for their own embarrassing excesses.
Such as Vincent Fumo, poster child for public corruption.
And LeAnna Washington, poster child for using her own staff to plan campaign fundraisers
And John Perzel, poster child for constructing elaborate taxpayer funded systems to help him and cronies get reelected.
All of these offenses have a key point in common: They are connected to the sense of spoiled entitlement that often comes with state elected office.
Today, we present Representative Margo "Crash" Davidson, poster child for "why are we pampering and spoiling state legislators?"
According to a recent Inquirer report, Davidson apparently has a hard time handling her state-government-issued car; in the past three years, she's had three accidents in two different state-supplied vehicles, one of which happened when she was driving with a suspended license. In another, separate episode, she left her state-owned car in her driveway unlocked with the keys in it; it was stolen and damaged. Taxpayers have been on the hook not only for her cars, but for $30,000 in repairs.
It's bad enough that cars are provided to state lawmakers; those deals also include fuel and maintenance. But the car perk is just the tip of the iceberg. State lawmakers are paid an average of more than $87,000 –way more than any other state except California. Leaders get even more. Lawmakers also get per diems – up to $183 per day, no receipts required.
They get gold-plated health care, and after serving in office for 10 years — eight, if you're a senator — they can retire (at 55, with a pension) and keep it for a low cost, for life. And they get to draw their own district lines, ensuring them long stints in office.
If Davidson's bumper car experience is any guide, no one bats an eye or puts a limit on the amount of money taxpayers are expected to shell out for the damage done by expensive perks.
Who ever thought it would be a good idea to create a body of lawmakers empowered to codify into law generous salaries and perks for themselves?
It's hard to be optimistic anything will change. Following the "Bonusgate" scandal of 2006 when lawmakers approved raises for themselves in the middle of the night, a scathing grand jury report called for a number of reforms for a legislature they said "exists in a time warp." Those reforms called for eliminating political caucuses, cutting bloated staffing levels, and killing per diems.
Nothing much has happened since – except for more car crashes for Davidson.
Other states require voters to approve every pay raise. Still others have a commission that helps establish salaries and perks. Others tie their salaries to the pay of other state employees, according to Ballotpedia. We'd settle for tying it to the average state income which is $56,907.