Size Isn’t Everything

Sen. Dave Argall has introduced another attempt to reduce the size of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.

Pennsylvania is ranked 2nd in the nation for largest state legislator size (totaling 253); 4th in the nation for highest paid legislators ($76,000, base pay per year), and 1st for most expensive operating legislature in the nation.

The proposed bill would eliminate 5 positions in the Senate and 50 positions in the House by 2053. Similar bills to reduce legislators’ size have failed to gain support in the past, but Sen. Argall has also proposed extending House term limits from two to four years to gain endorsement.

Advocates for reducing the size of the General Assembly say it will save millions in the Legislature’s operating costs. As we’ve repeated time and time again it is unlikely that minimizing the legislature’s size without other reforms will affect Harrisburg’s spending problem. Studies have shown it is a state’s number of legislative staff that really drives the costs up. Pennsylvania is ranked 2nd in the nation in this area, with over 11.6 staff members per legislator.

States with larger staff sizes per legislature spend more per capita; have higher tax burdens, and less economic freedom. Any reduction in the size of legislature must be coupled with additional reforms, such as limited sessions and limited terms.