Wasteful spending in Pennsylvania legislature nothing new
There were quite a few news stories the past week on the “Bonusgate” grand jury recommendations that Pennsylvania General Assembly reform its wasteful spending practices.
Is this a new problem? Don’t answer that until you read the excerpt below from the November 6, 1782 Freeman’s Journal, a Philadelphia newspaper. (At that time Philadelphia was the state capital).
“A correspondent, whose letter is too lengthy for insertion at present, informs, that our new elected representatives in assembly, intend to set an example of economy in their own conduct, and thus to lay the axe to the root of public abuses.
If the late house spun out its tedious sittings to half the days in the year, at an expence of near 8000 [pounds], paid merely as wages to the members, and of almost 2000 [pounds] besides for clerks attendance, printing, paper, &c, &c, &c, the present assembly intend to dispatch the public bushiness in less than 100 days; thus retrenching from the public charges at least 4000 [pounds] per annum.
He observes, that the ill habit of long unproductive sessions, continued from the old government of Pennsylvania, (unknown in the neighbouring states, and very wasteful of public money) arose from the policy of the popular leaders of former times, who kept the assembly sitting in order to balance and counteract the overweening power of an hereditary land lord governor…. But as every idea of this nature is now out of sight, the treasure of the state must be spared.
Yet to accomplish the public business within the space assigned, he observes, that the house must engage the assistance of a person of known ability, probity, and character, on hounourable terms, to draught the bills, and to take care that the laws be finished with precision and accuracy; an improvement from which this additional advantage will be served, that the people will understand the acts of the legislature, and will be delivered from ‘the miserable servitude…of being governed by vague and uncertain laws.'”
In essence, this writer of 228 years ago was suggesting that besides cutting expenses, the General Assembly needs to hire a manager to draft clear, concise bills and get them acted upon in a timely manner. Maybe the present legislature should take heed?