Does Pennsylvania Need Fewer Legislators?

A proposal to reduce the Pennsylvania State House from 203 representatives to 153 will be voted on in the coming weeks by the House. The proposal is certainly popular, but is it much ado about nothing?

As Daily News columnist John Baer notes, the reduction wouldn't take effect until after the 2020 redistricting plan goes into effect— at least 10 years from now. This date assumes the proposed constitutional amendment passes both the House and Senate this session, and next legislative session, and is then approved by voters.

The proposal is often sold as cost-savings. At $314 million, the cost of running the legislature is no small matter, but reducing the number of legislators need not reduce costs. The biggest cost in the state legislature is not its 253 members, but its 2,919 staff members, the largest legislative staff in the nation. Indeed, lawmaker salaries are only a bit more than 10 percent of the General Assembly's total cost. And reducing legislative spending need not wait a decade, it can happen in the next budget.

The more important question is whether this is good policy. Our analysis shows almost zero connection between the number of legislators and policy outcomes like spending, taxes, or economic freedom. As we've repeated time and time again, it is unlikely that minimizing the legislature's size without other reforms will improve Harrisburg's spending problem.