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Bowing to the people's will

June 22, 2006

Pennsylvania House Speaker John Perzel this week said he would "accept the will of the people" and stop trying to defend last year's controversial pay raise.

Each attempt to defend the action has only made things worse, Perzel admitted, and said that he welcomed the new scrutiny of the state's General Assembly.

Had Perzel stopped there, he might have impressed us as a man who had learned a valuable lesson. Unfortunately, he continued on.

Some 30 House members are having serious financial difficulties, and cannot even apply for a credit card. Others, Perzel said, make less than Philadelphia tattoo artists.

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Perhaps this is true, but where is it promised that public service will pay more than the private sector? We're certain that the Philadelphia Phillies pay their first baseman more than the average lawmaker's pay, but that is comparing apples to oranges.

By the way, most state lawmakers make $72,187, although the members of the leadership get more than that.

Perzel also said he was going to stop his defense of the pay raise because some were using his statements to attack members who had taken the raise.

"It is not proper, given the variety of viewpoints of our members, that they are publicly penalized for my opinions," Perzel said.

We agree, if the members in question were distancing themselves from Perzel, or calling for some new leadership. If they don't, if they accept him as their leader, then using his words against them would seem to be a fair tactic.

The difficulty that Perzel and others seem to have in seeing what they did was wrong probably means that his hope that this will all go away quickly is not realistic.

It took an egregious act to do it, but the public has awakened to the fact that the citizens have a role to play in the legislative process. By paying attention and showing that they care, they reduce lawmakers' temptation to do something wrong.

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