Sharing the pain?
By DEN MCLAUGHLIN
A lot has been written about Gov. Tom Corbett's first budget in which he makes big cuts in funding, mostly to programs that directly affects the working public. His budget proposal is in response to a projected multibillion dollar state budget deficit come July 1.
State spending has to be cut, for sure, and everyone should share the pain. Which brings me to today's column. One of our state legislators, Sen John Eichelberger, was quoted in the Altoona Mirror newspaper admonishing people by noting that everyone has to sacrifice and cut back in today's economic climate.
Apparently Eichelberger and his band of merry legislators, who live like kings and queens, doesn't want the pain to reach the state legislature, the second most expensive legislature in the U.S., second only to California.
While Corbett cuts almost in half state subsidies to public schools and state universities, our legislators cut their budget by a mere one to two percent.
Not proposed in Corbett's budget is a pay freeze or wage cut for state legislators, whose salaries are at over $78,000 plus per year, or their large staffs that cost the state taxpayers plenty. Nor are any of the extremely favorable benefits they receive cut.
There is no proposal for our state legislators to help pay for or increase their contribution for their free long-term care insurance, their free vision care, their free dental plan or their free disability insurance.
How about cutting their $25,000 expense supplement or give up their per diems? One local legislator received over $16,000 in per diems last year, it was reported in another media source.
How about the free rides they get at the taxpayers' expense? We pay for their vehicles in monthly rental payments for them. Add to that gas reimbursements.
How about the legislators paying more than one percent of their salary toward the best health care plan that costs $19,000 each in taxpayer money?
They have already received their cost of living adjustment raise, despite the fact those on Social Security were denied a raise at the federal level-again.
And did you know that six former legislators are eligible to receive pension payments topping $100,000 a year, according to a Harrisburg Patriot-News analysis? And 18 others are eligible to receive maximum yearly pensions ranging between $17,295 and $92,761.
The report also indicates that recently departed House members could be eligible for taxpayer-paid lifetime medical, dental, vision and prescription drug benefits. Their spouses and children up to age 26 can also receive those benefits.
Retired state senators with at least eight years of service are eligible for a medical, dental, vision, drug and long-term care benefits package. The spouses of retired senators can also collect such benefits.
And, did you know, departing lawmakers can begin collecting pension benefits at 50 years of age with just five years of service?
Corbett and his legislative cronies want all of us to share the pain, except, of course, the House and Senate members and their well-paid staffs.