Jerry Policoff resides in Lancaster County and is a Board member and Secretary of Health Care for All PA. He is the Democratic candidate for State Representative in the 41st legislative district.
A big element of the New Jersey rally was Governor Chris Christie’s war on teachers, their union, and their benefits. What Christie is doing in New Jersey is about to become the new rallying cry for conservative Republicans all over the country. We will be seeing it next year in Pennsylvania when the Republicans take a similar approach to the budget deficit here.
What you won’t hear from them or most Democrats is a response to a Grand Jury report released this week to far too little media attention. It was an indictment of the way the Legislature does business in Harrisburg and the enormous amounts of money it wastes. For example, the House has a separate printing office for the Republican and Democratic caucuses, each with identical very expensive equipment and similar sized staffs. Huge human and man-hour resources are devoted to filling out DOT forms that should be filled out by constituents or the DOT. Several employees of the Legislature do nothing else. The average number of staffers for every Representative is 9; and in the Senate 17. Most of these positions are redundant and unnecessary.
Unspent dollars are turned over to the Leadership of both parties who dole out the money in the form of legislative perks to the legislators who curry their favor. It goes on and on. The 34-page report is attached for those interested. Addressing these issues along with enacting single-payer health care reform would probably all but wipe out the budget deficit, and perhaps even turn it into a surplus. Incidentally, a side benefit of passing single-payer would be that the legislators would have to start contributing to the cost of their health care instead of getting it for free (the House) or almost free (1% of salary in the Senate).
Frankly, we all deserve the wonderful benefits our legislators have provided themselves, and under HB 1660 we’d all have that. We’d also all pay our fair share for those benefits. It is time all of us had the same peace of mind that accompanies knowing we will receive needed care at a price we can afford when we get sick. So far the response from the House and Senate Leadership to the Grand Jury report has been deafening silence.
Let’s start talking this up, and let’s draw in the teachers and others facing steep budget cuts (MH/MR, for example). We have a real opportunity to build our coalition. We all have a stake in each other’s issues.