A Friend in Pennsylvania
“Slow, corrupt and expensive is no way to run a state government.” That’s what Pittsburgh Post Gazette columnist Brian O’Neill wrote recently about the Pennsylvania Legislature.
The state budget remains unset three months past deadline. O’Neill bemoaned that for the seventh consecutive year “America’s Largest Full-Time State Legislature has been unable to perform its principal task on time.”
What a mess! What to do?
O’Neill suggests cutting the 253-member legislature down to 201. He points out that this 20 percent cut would translate to savings of $60 million dollars or more a year.
Sounds good: Fewer politicians, less cost. But reducing the number of legislators won’t solve the problem. It may make it worse.
A Pennsylvania senator represents 250,000 citizens, a representative only 61,000. Compare that to California, where a state senator represents more than 900,000 people and a representative 460,000. And California’s budget is a bigger mess.
The math is simple: A single citizen’s voice is more pronounced to a Pennsylvania state legislator. The cost to challenge an incumbent is far less, there, as well.
So don’t cut the size of the legislature. But by all means cut the cost.
The problem Pennsylvanians have in reforming their state is that — shockingly — self-interested politicians are resistant to reform, and the voters lack an initiative process to do the job themselves.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.