Tuesday, June 05, 2007

PA Legislature: Poor Performance, High Cost

Poor Performance, High Cost
On May 9, the Speaker's Reform Commission heard a report from Brenda Erikson of the National Conference of State Legislatures . It documents that our General Assembly ranks among the most expensive legislatures in the nation by several measures. (The report is not on the Speaker's Commission web site. To get it, write to the Speaker's Office, Room 139, Main Capitol, Harrisburg, PA 17120; or call 717-787-2016; or email reform@speakerobrien.com .)

Rank in Legislative Spending as a Percent of General Government Spending
1: Pennsylvania, 0.53%
26: Vermont, 0.19%
50: Ohio, 0.09%

Rank in Total Legislative Spending
1: California (1st in total population), $296.4 million
2: Pennsylvania (6th in total population), $286.0 million
26: Missouri (18th in total population), $29.9 million
50: South Dakota (46th in total population), $4.3 million

Rank in Legislative Spending per Citizen
1: Alaska, $47.52
2: Rhode Island, $23.86
3: Pennsylvania, $23.01
26: Louisiana, $8.97
50: Georgia, $3.22

The report did not speculate about the reasons for these rankings. But it provided two other rankings that make the reasons clear: the number of legislators and the number of staff. As with all personnel-intensive enterprises, large numbers of people drive large costs in office space, salaries, heal! th insurance and pensions.

Rank in Size of Legislature
1: New Hampshire, 424
2: Pennsylvania, 253
26: Arkansas, 135
50: Nebraska (whose legislature has a single-chamber legislature), 49

Rank in Size of Permanent Legislative Staff
1: New York, 3,077
2: Pennsylvania, 2,947
3: California, 2,334
26: Rhode Island, 297
50: North Dakota, 32 (increases to 172 during legislative session)

This last measure is ironic because the legislature requires the governor's office to publish The Governor's Annual Work Force Report to document the size of the state work force. For decades, Pennsylvania has had bragging rights as having the fewest "state employees per population," as the 2007 report documents once again. You would think that lawmakers would be curious about how their own employment practices rank among the states. Yet many lawmakers expressed surprise at their spending and employment rankings.

"I've never seen such comprehensive information before," said House Minority Whip David Argall, R-Schuylkill, who has been a lawmaker for 22 years.


  • What does it say about the mindset of our lawmakers that these rankings are a surprise?
  • Now that they know, what are they doing about it?

Source: Democracy Rising News 6-5-2007

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