All have been gracious, many receptive, one was hard to convince. I knocked on his door and introduced myself, "Hi, my name is Casey Roncaglione and I want to be your next State Representative." No sooner had I finished speaking, the man said he would be voting for Mario Civera because Mr. Civera, who used to be a barber, cut his hair when he was a child. When I told him that Mr.Civera gets free haircuts now, paid for by the taxpayers, he began to listen as I went through the list of perks and freebies that Representatives get.
It's a long list for Mr. Civera, and I told him about some of them.
He gets catered meals, free haircuts, gym memberships, money for his Cadillac lease, travel expenses, food and lodging.
Free health care.
A daily per-diem pay of $141 a day.
"Legislative weekends" in Philadelphia which include free hotels, meals and sports tickets from lobbyists.
Up to $29,400 in office expenses.
A pension that was boosted by %50 in 2001 and free private attorneys to defend leadership against citizen complaints.
Millions of dollars in leadership accounts, where he sent his payraise money, that are used for political advantage.
And that is just a sampling of what we know about.
The man at the door told me this was news to him. I'm not sure I changed his mind about his vote but he was definitely less happy about his haircut memories, and who knows what will happen when he does vote.
And that's the point.
In a time where taxes keep rising, along with the costs of daily living, how can Mr. Civera and fellow Representatives keep taking all these perks while hard working people are paying their own way everyday. I think it's about time that our State Representatives live more like the people they represent instead of treating our treasury as their own personal expense accounts. Why not use a state car, which is much cheaper, instead of a $650 leased Caddy. Contribute to the health plan like everyone else who has insurance. Say no to free gifts from lobbyists who expect favors in return. Pay for your own haircuts and meals.
The cost of state government is a burden on every taxpayer and leaves many worthwhile projects that would benefit our neighborhoods unfunded. Most of these perks would have been unknown to me and the man at the door if it had not been for the Payraise that Mr. Civera and fellow Representatives voted for themselves. The payraise was bad enough, but once the rug was lifted, we began to see how good our Representatives had made life for themselves.
A new Legislature will take over in January and there are many reforms and changes that need to be made. At the top of the list will be ending the free lunch for our Representatives. I'm hoping to be part of the new group of Representatives, and I'll definitely change the way things are done.
After all, our Representatives work for us not for themselves, though it seems many of them have forgotten that. I won't forget.
Casey R. Roncaglione
164th Legislative District