It’s no surprise, of course.
We all know our legislature well enough by now.
We know it values self-service above public service.
We’ve learned to view it with low expectations.
So, when Harrisburg’s Patriot-News/pennlive.com reports that the vast majority of lawmakers opted to keep their bigger, fatter pensions after voting to “reform” pension benefits for all new state workers and teachers, well, the inclination is to shrug.
Ask yourself, instead, how did we get to a place where our elected officials — in City Council, Congress, the legislature — act as they please with impunity?
Do we share responsibility? Are we at all complicit in creating a system in which those we elect to represent us seem more intent on representing themselves?
The numbers on this pension thing are stark. And deserve note.
Using data obtained through Right-to-Know requests, the Patriot-News reports that 198 of 253 lawmakers (78 percent) are hanging on to their generous, costly, old-school guaranteed pensions.
This includes 43 of 50 freshman lawmakers, many of whom ran as reformers.
And this grab-and-hold move comes after the legislature voted in June 2017 to put almost all new state government and school employees into 401(k)-type retirement plans beginning this year.
It was a bold step to slow the growth of a $70 billion pension liability the legislature more than helped create. A needed step after members voted in 2001 to pump up their own pensions. And then, through years of inattention and inaction, got us where we are today.
But it has ended up as a call to reform others’ pensions while ducking reform of their own.
In a word, hypocrisy.
The 2017 pension change bill, widely praised as positive action, passed the House and Senate easily with heavy Republican support, and was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf, who takes no salary and isn’t taking a pension.
Almost all Philadelphia lawmakers voted against the reform bill. Then opted to retain their pensions.
Two Philly members voted for the reform: Democratic Rep. Angel Cruz and GOP Rep. Martina White. But they, too, opted to keep traditional pensions, even after voting for others to get 401(k) plans.
Neither responded to requests for comment. Cruz is running for City Council against incumbent District 7 Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. His office tells me he’s on legislative leave this week.
Of the 32 Philadelphia House and Senate incumbents, including new members elected in 2018, all but one is listed as opting for traditional pensions.
The sole exception is Democratic Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, elected in a March special election. She was not listed in the pension system as of April 1.
Many suburban lawmakers voted to end traditional pensions for others while keeping their own.
They include, from Montgomery County: Republican Sens. Bob Mensch and Tommy Tomlinson; Republican Reps. Marcy Toepel, Tim Hennessey, and Todd Stephens; and Democratic Reps. Matt Bradford and Tim Briggs.
From Bucks County: Republican Reps. Craig Staats and Gene DiGirolamo, and Democratic Reps. John Galloway, Perry Warren, and Tina Davis.
From Chester County: Democratic Sen. Andy Dinniman and Democratic Rep. Carolyn Comitta.
From Delaware County: Republican Reps. Christopher Quinn and Stephen Barrar.
The only lawmaker in the region who voted for reform plans and opted to take one was Sen. Tom Killion (R., Delaware).
Also, Rep. John Lawrence (R., Chester) is among 32 House and Senate members statewide not signed up for pension benefits.
Top legislative leaders, all of whom supported the pension changes, split on personal pension decisions.
Senate Republican Leader Jake Corman opted to keep his traditional pension. As did Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa and House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody.
But Republican Senate President Joe Scarnati, GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai, and House GOP Leader Bryan Cutler all switched to 401(k) plans.
Even if their motive was to avoid the “H” word, good for them. Too bad those they lead didn’t follow them on this.