This letter was submitted to LebTown. Read LebTown’s submission policy here.
If you have been reading the news over the past several weeks, you should be alarmed. The overwhelmingly Republican Legislature has shown its willingness to flex their autocratic storming arm. Are we beginning to see the downside of allowing one party to maintain majority rule?
In the past year, it has become evident that the Pennsylvania Public Schools Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) has fallen on troubled times. Shortfalls in earnings have caught the attention of taxpayers. The system has the potential of leaving the taxpayers on the hook for $40 billion plus dollars. Add that to the state employees’ debt burden and a real fiscal disaster looms. The issue gets complicated by questionable investments that hardly make sense to the least savvy investor. Couple this with the revelations of extreme salaries, imprudent investment expenditures, resort vacations and air fares for employees, taxpayers should be alarmed. Teachers should be furious as it is a significant portion of their retirement funds. It has definitely piqued the interest of the FBI and the IRS.
Most concerning in the PSERS saga is the recent revelation that many members and local elected representatives seek to hold discussions in secrecy. It was revealed that they are seeking non-disclosure agreements from all members in board discussions. I doubt we need to remind them that since taxpayers money is involved, that all transactions should be 100% transparent.
But, it appears that transparency may not be much of a concern when one party is 100% in control. The PA law makers vowed transparency, but negotiations for the election probe are held in private is a recent headline. Pennsylvania Procurement Code maintains that the office of the governor, attorney general, state boards, commissions and others acquire services and supplies in a fully transparent manner. Conversely, the legislature has a free hand making these decisions! As a voter who is aware that they fully intend to seek my private information, I am alarmed that they may contract to conduct these searches and to the extent they will investigate our personnel information. History is vast with autocratic governments searching private citizens information and the illicit use against them.
Taxpayers should be outraged with recent revelations that tens of millions of dollars have been spent on legal services chasing fantasy election issues. Money that could be used for education or infrastructure is being derailed into partisan politics. Making the issue more egregious is the fact that it appears legal firms that favor the partisan agenda are reaping handsome rewards.
Transparency in a democratic government is paramount. I would recommend that you write or or call to tell the local legislators “enough with the secret government.” If we do not hold them to transparency now, how far will they transgress our privacy? If the foxes continue to remain in the hen house we the taxpayers may end up with no chickens!
Calvin Clements is the former Democratic candidate for House District 101.