Pileggi Stays To End In Lions’ Den — Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Domenic Pileggi (R-9) entered the den that was Avondale Presbyterian Church, Dec. 2, to face about 130 lions associated with Chester County Tea Party groups. He answered generally unfriendly questions without getting flustered then stayed long after the event ended to field more.
The event was sponsored by Coalition for Advancing Freedom .
That’s not to say the questions were always answered completely or clearly.
Pileggi began with a description of what to expect in the next legislative session in which the Republicans will control the state house, senate and governor’s office. He touched on redistricting which would apply to congressional seats and reapportionment which would pertain to state legislative seats. He noted that Pennsylvania is going to lose one congressman. He then went to describe the budget problems the state faces namely that it spends $28 billion while taking in $23 billion in revenue. He noted that Tom Corbett won the governor’s office on a no-tax pledge which was also taken by many winning legislators.
Expect cuts in spending.
Pileggi said that while Gov. Rendell was a major opponent of school choice Gov. Corbett will be a big supporter. He said to expect a major expansion of school choice, charter schools and related programs.
Pileggi said that the privatization of the state stores will be discussed. He said Marcellus shale drilling will be a big part of the agenda.
Then came questions.
Several involved principles relating to state constitutional matters. Pileggi, in addressing one of them, said that when he votes it’s with the presumption that what he is voting for is in accordance with the state constitution. He noted that he receives few constituent comments regarding whether a particular bill is constitutional. Regarding how the state’s unbalanced budgets don’t jibe with the constitutional requirement to have one, he pointed out that budget is based on projected revenue the projection of which, by law, comes solely from the governor’s office, which has quite a bit of leeway to fudge things. He noted in response to a question regarding how out 37 of the 68 House members who voted to call the pension bailout bill unconstitutional then went on to vote for the same bill, that what they were voting to call unconstitutional was a provision placed by the senate to provide for independent analysis of budget revenue projections.
Gossip wise he said several Republican senators carry a copy of the Constitution with them while in the Capitol citing by name Mike Folmer and John Eichelberger.
Pileggi said he kept his copy in his desk.
He took quite a bit of grief regarding the pension bailout and legislative and staff salaries.
It was noted that pension costs to the taxpayer will be rising from $500 million per year today to $6 billion in 2015 to $10 billion in 2030.
“We are here to tell you there is no institutional support from the taxpayers to support the existing scheme,” one man said.
Pileggi said that in the next legislative session the issue will be readdressed and he expects an attempt to turn the program into one of defined contributions for new hires. He noted that this will not help the present tax problem, and said that nothing could be done regarding the benefit for existing employees.
A man who had experience in dealing with pension issues in the private sector, however, challenged him on the matter. He told Pileggi that what normally happens is that the trouble plans are terminated and their assets are distributed to beneficiaries who are then placed in plans with defined contributions.
Pileggi asked to speak to the man after the meeting.
And he did.
Pileggi was confronted with the fact that there were 2,200 staffers for 203 house members and 900 staffers for 50 senators and more than 70 of them have salaries of over $100,000.
“We will reduce the number of staffers,” Pileggi promised. “Absolutely.”
Pileggi, when challenged, said his salary as majority leader was $110,000. He attempted to figure his pension but could not remember the formula. According to Commonwealth Foundation it would be 3.3 percent of his last year salary times years in office. Pileggi took office in 2002 so his pension would be $29,040 as of now.
“I’m not in the position for the compensation,” he said.
Regarding a question concerning teacher strikes, Pileggi said he was against the right for teachers to strike but thought that ending it might be complicated. It was pointed out that, that would not be case as most states do not grant teachers the right to strike and in Pennsylvania the teachers had no such right before 1970, a fact of which he seemed unaware. Pileggi said he would look into it.
He was asked by a union member if he supported “right to work” laws. These are laws that would prohibit requirements that one must be a union member to work at a plant organized by a union. Pileggi ducked it in a way that would give Sugar Ray Leonard a case of envy.
He said it was unfair to make a person pay union dues but it was wrong that a person not paying the dues should get paid the rate of a contract negotiated by the union.
He was asked what he thought of the Tea Party movement.
“I think the Tea Party is fabulous,” he said.
Pileggi Stays To End In Lions’ Den