Pennsylvania’s super-sized legislature

There’s nothing like a government scandal to get people in the mood . . . for reform. An article by Anne Reeves in the Patriot-News reminds us why the Pennsylvania legislature should down-size. Reforming the general assembly, however, is more complicated than cutting the number of legislative seats or even more significant reform like downgrading to a part-time legislature. In this short article Reeves gives readers a peek at the cost of big government:

  • At 253 members the PA legislature is the largest full-time state legislative body in the nation. New York’s assembly totals 211, California’s 120.
  • On a staff-per-legislator basis Pennsylvania ranks third, this “Professionalization” is especially costly.
  • Pennsylvania tolerates the highest staff-to-population ratio of the 13 largest states (Of course you need more staff to run your office when half of your people are busy campaigning for the next election).
  • Base salaries at $73,613 are the fourth highest in the nation. But don’t forget to add $129 per diem and various perks like liberal retirement benefits.
  • Only California spends more per legislative member, Pennsylvania spends an average of 1.13 million.
  • On the bright side, (yes there is a glimmer of hope) the 2008-09 budget set aside 332.2 million to run both chambers, in 2003 that figure was 341 million. Although $8 million of the $9 million cut was for a legislative drafting system (a one-time expense).

Shrinking the physical size of the legislature could be beneficial. But moving away from a professional legislature to a citizen-legislature is crucial to other reforms including eliminating the lame duck session, a constitutional convention, increasing government transparency, and limited terms. Click here for more on shrinking the legislature.