By Oren M. Spiegler
Pennsylvania is facing fiscal Armageddon for many reasons, including the expansion of social programs and excessive spending under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Meanwhile, Gov.-elect Tom Corbett has put himself in a straitjacket with an ill-advised pledge to hold the line on all taxes and fees.
Even if Corbett had not taken that pledge, I would expect the administration to demand wage freezes and other concessions of state workers as their contracts expire. To strengthen his case, the governor should ask the same of the state legislature.
I am a 26-year employee of the commonwealth. After three promotions during my period of service, I now occupy an executive position that I love.
I am satisfied with my salary and benefits, which allow me to sustain a family. I am responsible for making significant decisions that affect people's lives and, on an almost daily basis, I deal with challenging personalities. I work under pressure but like coming to work every day, and I always strive to represent my employer professionally and competently.
Although I am not far from the state's normal retirement age of 60, I have no thought of retiring and hope to continue working indefinitely.
My coworkers and I didn't ask for a 25 percent enhancement of our pension benefits in 2001, but the members of the General Assembly gave it to us in an effort to avoid condemnation for concurrently padding their own spectacular pensions by 50 percent.
Although I am not responsible for the dire straits the commonwealth now finds itself in, I am a realistic, fair-minded person and am willing to do my part to restore my employer's solvency - with one important condition.
When our leaders ask us for concessions, I will ask what the members of the General Assembly are prepared to relinquish. I suspect that the answer will be "Not a darned thing!"
As the legislators see it, they work hard to make Pennsylvania the utopia that it is, and their wages and perks are untouchable. Even if they do bear the ultimate responsibility for the commonwealth's massive deficit, they don't think they should share the burden of addressing it.
That stance is particularly unacceptable given that legislative salaries start at $79,000 a year and range up to almost $125,000, which is two to three times what the average Pennsylvanian earns. Shamefully, lawmakers also received cost-of-living allowances in December, a benefit that was not provided to rank-and-file state employees.
When the new governor is able to wring wage, benefit, and pension concessions out of members of the General Assembly - those who must lead by example - I will gladly take a dose of the bitter medicine that's being given to most Pennsylvanians. Unless and until that happens, the administration and the legislature will have no moral authority to request such a sacrifice of the state's dedicated public servants.