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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Tony Phyrillas
Bio: Tony Phyrillas
Date:  March 4, 2008
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Topic category:  Other/General

Pennsylvania lawmakers flunk The Liberty Index

Government watchdog groups routinely rank the Pennsylvania Legislature as one of the least productive, most secretive and least accountable in the nation. It didn't become like that overnight, but for all the talk of reform in the past couple of years, has anything really changed in Harrisburg?

The Pennsylvania General Assembly ranks near the top when it comes to the number of members (253), the number of paid staffers (3,000) and the cost of operating ($333 million a year.)

Government watchdog groups routinely rank the Pennsylvania Legislature as one of the least productive, most secretive and least accountable in the nation. It didn't become like that overnight, but for all the talk of reform in the past couple of years, has anything really changed in Harrisburg?

There's some new faces, but most of the leadership remains the same. And despite the ouster of 55 lawmakers in 2006, incumbents routinely win reelection and end up serving for decades.

Are taxpayers getting their money's worth? Are lawmakers earning their pay? If the earth should open up and swallow the state capitol, would anyone miss their state legislator?

Grading the members of the General Assembly is a subjective exercise, but somebody's gotta do it. If you read those glossy newsletters lawmakers mail your house several times a year (at taxpayers' expense), you’d think Pennsylvania had the cream of the crop when it comes to legislators.

But take a look at an outside evaluation of lawmakers, such as the Liberty Index, and most lawmakers should be sent to the back of the class.

The Conservative Reform PAC recently released updated ratings of Pennsylvania lawmakers based on their commitment to free-market economics. The group's Web site boasts it is "looking out for the forgotten taxpayer." It defines economic freedom as "the ability and freedom to spend your own money in the manner you think best for you, your family and your community."

The Liberty Index offers a grade of A through F based on how lawmakers voted on all legislation that came before the General Assembly in 2007.

A review of the Liberty Index, posted online at www.libertyindex.com, offers a snapshot at how 254 elected officials (the 253 state legislators and Gov. Ed Rendell) spent your hard-earned tax dollars last year.

There's no surprise that Rendell earned a grade of F on the Liberty Index. He's been given an F or an F- every year the Index has been released.

Since taking office, Rendell has increased state spending by $7 billion, pushed through several tax increases, raised fees for most state services and increased state debt.

What may surprise voters is how poorly many lawmakers scored on the Liberty Index. Rendell didn't tax, spend and borrow on his own. He had help from a majority of lawmakers in the House and Senate, both Democrats and Republicans.

"There's not a clear difference between Republicans and Democrats at the state level," says Bob Guzzardi, president of the Conservative Reform Network and the Conservative Reform PAC.

Only a handful of of lawmakers from Berks, Chester or Montgomery counties earned top grades from the Liberty Index — Rep. Sam Rohrer, R-128, Rep. Carl Mantz, R-187, and Rep. Jim Cox, R129, received A grades while Rep. Curt Schroder, R-155, Rep. Tim Hennessey, R-26, Rep. Tom Quigley, R-146, and Rep. Doug Reichley R-134, received A- grades.

Here's how Southeastern Pennsylvania lawmakers did on their Liberty Index report cards.

Berks County:

Sen. Mike Folmer (R-48): B+ Sen. Michael A. O'Pake (D-11): D- Sen. James Rhoades (R-29): D- Rep. David Argall (R-124): D+ Rep. Tom Caltagirone (D-127): F- Rep. Jim Cox (R-129): A Rep. David R. Kessler (D-130): F- Rep. Carl Mantz (R-187): A Rep. Doug Reichley (R-134): A- Rep. Sam Rohrer (R-128): A Rep. Dante Santoni Jr. (D-126): F- Rep. Tim Seip (D-125) D-

Chester County:

Sen. Michael Brubaker (R-36): D+ Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19): F- Sen. Edwin Erickson (R-26): F- Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-9) F- Rep. Stephen Barrar (R-160): C- Rep. Tim Hennessey (R-26): A Rep. Art Hershey (R-13): C- Rep. Thomas Killion (R-168): F- Rep. Barbara McIlvane Smith (D-156): F- Rep. Duane Milne (R-167): D- Rep. Chris Ross (R-158): B- Rep. Carole Rubley (R-157): C- Rep. Curt Schroder (R-155): A

Montgomery County:

Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-12): F- Sen. Vincent J. Hughes (D-7): F- Sen. Charles T. McIlhinney Jr. (R-10): F- Sen. John Rafferty (R-44): F- Sen. Connie Williams (D-17): F- Sen. Rob Wonderling (R-24): D+ Sen. Leanna Washington (D-4): F- Rep. Lawrence Curry (D-154): F- Rep. Mike Gerber (D-148): F- Rep. Robert Godshall (R-53): D- Rep. Kate Harper (R-61): D Rep. George T. Kenney Jr. (R-170): D- Rep. Daylin Leach (D-149): F- Rep. Bob Mensch (R-147): C- Rep. Jay Moyer (R-70): F- Rep. Tom Murt (R-152): C- Rep. Tom Quigley (R-146) A- Rep. Josh Shapiro (D-153): F- Rep. Rick Taylor (D-151): F- Rep. Mike Vereb (R-150): D-

Tony Phyrillas
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Biography - Tony Phyrillas

Tony Phyrillas is a leading conservative political columnist and blogger based in Pennsylvania. He is a veteran journalist with 25 years experience as a reporter, editor and columnist for several newspapers. Phyrillas received recognition for column writing in 2010 from the Associated Press Managing Editors, in 2007 from Suburban Newspapers of America and in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists, Keystone Chapter. A graduate of Penn State University, Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pa. In addition to The Mercury website (www.pottsmerc.com), his columns are featured on more than a dozen political websites and blogs. Phyrillas is a frequent guest (and occasional host) on talk radio and has been a panelist on the "Journalists Roundtable" public affairs TV program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). Phyrillas was named one of the '10 Leading Greek-American Bloggers in the World' in 2007 by Odyssey: The World of Greece magazine. BlogNetNews.com ranked Phyrillas the Most Influential Political Blogger in Pennsylvania for three consecutive years (2007-2010). You can follow Phyrillas on Twitter @TonyPhyrillas


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