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Pa. citizens must oppose lawmakers' bad behavior

October 07, 2005

A new poll shows that a majority of Pennsylvania residents oppose the way in which state legislators raised their salaries, then used "unvouchered expenses" to get higher pay immediately in spite of a constitutional prohibition on mid-term pay boosts.

But according to The Associated Press (AP), the poll, done by Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University, reported that most voters also said they wouldn't necessarily vote lawmakers out of office for the offense.

Conflicted voters may be spared the need to do anything such as that by a pair of lawsuits that seek the rollback of the raise and to prohibit the use of unvouchered expenses.

Lawmakers who are smart will return the raise now and allow voters to evaluate whether belatedly doing the right thing is sufficient reason for giving them another term in office.

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The Quinnipiac University poll surveyed 1,530 voters. Of those surveyed, AP reported that 61 percent want the pay raises repealed, 22 percent said there should be some raises, but not as much as lawmakers gave themselves and 11 percent said raises should stay at current levels. Six percent were undecided.

How much damage will the pay-raise issue do to lawmakers' re-election chances?

The poll said that 57 percent of those responding said they wouldn't vote against incumbents solely for that reason. About 37 percent said they would vote against raise-taking lawmakers.

The survey also said that most responding - 67 percent - didn't know how their own representatives had voted.

They could be forgiven for that, because the vote took place at 2 a.m. on July 7, with no public debate or discussion.

Gov. Ed Rendell signed it into law the following day, bringing Pennsylvania lawmakers' base pay to $81,050, the second-highest in the nation behind California.

It is not the money that is involved that disturbs us, but the attitude that the public does not deserve to know what's going on and that the state's constitution applies to everyone else, but not to lawmakers. If citizens don't get upset about this, they deserve the government they will get.

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