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Heyl: Lawmakers put credulity in jeopardy

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, November 27, 2014 9:15 p.m

Hello everyone, and welcome to another edition of “Harrisburg Jeopardy!”

You know the format: First come the unappealing answers, followed by questions taxpayers should feel pained at having to ask. If you’re surprised by that backward approach, you obviously have no familiarity with how things work in the state capitol.

The topic you’ll play today is lawmaker base salaries. Let’s begin.

Answer: Approximately $21.5 million.

Question: What is the collective amount of the 2015 salaries of the 253 state legislators, not including benefits and the generous per diem they receive supposedly to cover their Harrisburg food and lodging costs?

A: Failed to get the state out of the retail liquor store business, failed to act on public pension reform and unbelievably failed to act on a bill that would have made it illegal in the state to raise dogs and cats for human consumption. (But in fairness, did pass a resolution recognizing Radon Awareness Month).

Q: What did the General Assembly do to earn its money this year?

A: $85,356.

Q: What are lawmakers’ base salaries when their annual and automatic cost of living adjustments kick in on Monday?

A: $52,007.

Q: What is the median household income in Pennsylvania?

A: Appalling.

Q: What would most people label the fact that lawmakers make $33,000 more than the state’s median household income?

A: $47,000.

Q: What were legislators’ base salaries before they passed legislation in 1995 giving themselves the annual COLA?

A: Outrageous.

Q: How would most people describe the 18 percent raise lawmakers gave themselves at the same time they approved the COLA?

A: Holy (cow)! Seriously, holy (cow)!

Q: You do realize lawmakers have received an 81 percent salary increase in less than two decades, don’t you?

A: They are the two high-ranking lawmakers who interestingly helped write the COLA legislation and later went to jail on corruption charges.

Q: Who are former state House Speaker Bill DeWeese and former Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Mellow?

A: The gift that keeps on giving … and giving … and giving.

Q: What state lawmakers probably call the COLA privately.

A: Yeah, good luck. That Sisyphus fellow had it easy compared to you.

Q: What would most people say to state Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin County) regarding his ongoing efforts to get lawmakers to cut their own financial throats and repeal their automatic, undeserved raises?

A: Your wallet is never, ever safe.

Q: What’s the lesson always learned by playing “Harrisburg Jeopardy!”?

Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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