No budget, no pay: a government reform effort

Each year, all 253 members of the Pennsylvania legislature are constitutionally required to pass and present to the governor a balanced budget. Yet, year after year, our constituents are faced with an untimely, out-of-balanced budget that tends to shortchange our children and individuals with special needs, as well as underfunds programs that provide for job creation throughout this commonwealth.

It is, and always has been, my belief that members on both sides of the aisle need to work together in a bipartisan manner to fulfill their fiscal responsibilities.

Recently, the House considered a bill that would require the secretary of the budget to reduce appropriations if total spending exceeds available revenue. Although that measure passed by a vote of 116-76, I voted against it because it failed to provide for adequate transparency within government.

Such transparency could have been found in four different amendments that, if passed, I believe would have further strengthened the bill. One of the amendments I personally authored. My amendment would have suspended compensation and reimbursements for the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet officers and members of the general assembly who are elected to leadership positions if a general appropriations bill fails to pass, or the governor vetoes, by June 30. No budget, no pay — it just makes common sense.

What we need and what the public demands is more transparency and accountability among members of the executive branch and legislative leaders. It is my belief that those who ultimately negotiate the state’s most important piece of legislation need to be held responsible for inaction. I have held myself to this very standard each and every year that the budget has not been enacted on time by voluntarily refusing to accept my paycheck.

As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania to ensure accountability in every facet of our jobs. One of the best ways to accomplish these goals is to be more transparent. I have heard from many of my constituents who say that passing a responsible budget is a key part of a legislator’s job and we should not get paid if we cannot do our jobs.

There is much more work to be done and I will not stop fighting until there is added transparency in state government. And, I expect good government reform proposals should be a top priority to members of the majority party when we return to session in January.

State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, 76th Legislative District, is the Pennsylvania House Democratic Whip.