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Rick Geist State Representative Serving Himself at the People's Expense

While people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have suffered through a recession that started in 2008 the state legislature has continued to enjoy pay increases, more benefits and a pension that most people can only dream about.
Local state representative Rick Geist Representing the 79th Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has voted for almost every bill that increased his pay and benefits while many people in the 79th District have difficulty paying for the basics such as groceries, heat, light and medicines.
Yearly Pay Raises
In 1995 Geist voted for Act 51 which provides legislators, judges and the governor with a no questions asked cost of living adjustment (COLA).  As a result each year legislators have seen their pay increase and the increases are compounded. Geist voted for this automatic increase even though the Pennsylvania Constitution Article III, Section 8 clearly states: 
The members of the General Assembly shall receive such salary and mileage for regular and special sessions as shall be fixed by law, and no other compensation whatever, whether for service upon committee or otherwise. No member of either House shall during the term for which he may have been elected, receive any increase of salary, or mileage, under any law passed during such term.
(Underlining added for emphasis)
A New and Different Pay Raise
Geist and other legislators were at it again in the early morning hours of July 7, 2005. They voted for a further increase in pay for lawmakers, judges, and top executive-branch officials. That vote took place at 2 a.m. without public review or commentary and without debate. Governor Ed Rendell immediately signed the bill into law. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review called the vote “a public shafting.” [1]
The paper continued, “Never mind that the average resident of this commonwealth makes just over $37,000 a year; legislators voted themselves an $11,000-a-year pay raise, or 16 percent. Their base pay would rise from $69,647 annually to $81,050 a year.” [2]  Committee chairmen, which Geist is one, would see their pay increased by 28 percent to $89,155.
Forget that the Pennsylvania Constitution dictates that such raises can't take effect until the next Legislature is seated. Geist and other legislators ignored the constitution. Once inacted Geist and others ran to the paymaster window and to take their raise immediately using an “unvouchered expense.”
Second paycheck
In addition to their pay legislators receive “per diems,” an allowance for daily expenses that legislators including Geist voted to give themselves. Their current per diem rate is $163. The per diems are paid without receipts, without documentation. The legislator claims and receives the per diem which amounts to a second pay check. In each of the last three years Geist has claimed approximately $25,000 in per diems.
When the average working person retires he is fortunate if he gets a pension that reflects a small amount of the pay he received while working.  In 2001 Geist was one of the legislators who introduced and voted in favor of HB26. The bill increases his and other legislator’s pensions by 50 percent and that of state workers by 25 percent. “This generosity and an unwillingness to pay for it, has left the state pension underfunded by between $13.7 billion and $114 billion depending on who you ask.” [3]
“Pennsylvania taxpayers will be hit with higher taxes to help fund two state pension systems. Pennsylvania’s statewide pension plans for public school employees, state workers, legislators, judges and other government employees —the Public School Employee Retirement System  (PSERS) and the State Employee Retirement System (SERS)— will require significantly higher taxpayer contributions in the 2012‐13 fiscal year and beyond.” [4]
Total Average Homeowner/Household Increase Cumulative property and state taxes, 2009‐10 to 2012‐13 projected at $1,360. [5]
Geist was elected to serve the people. But it appears he has served himself to taxpayer now and well into the future. It’s time to defeat him and other legislators of his ilk. We need to replace him with people who will follow the constitution and will work for the electorate.

[1]  Pittsburgh Tribune Review July 8, 2005
[2] Ibid
[3] Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania January 30, 2012
[4] Prepared by the Commonwealth Foundation, (November 2009)
[5] Ibid

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02/15/2012 10:07PM
Rick Geist State Representative Serving Himself at the People's Expense
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