(By Tim Potts, Democracy Rising)
On the day that 42,000 working poor in PA lost their health insurance because Gov. Tom Corbett and lawmakers couldn’t find money to pay for the Adult Basic health insurance program, a Pittsburgh TV station revealed that lawmakers have their own private doctor for the General Assembly.
In addition to paying Dr. Paul Grosh $170 per hour, up to $65,000 a year, lawmakers are using tax dollars to pay Dr. Grosh’s own health insurance, dental, vision and prescription drug costs plus his medical malpractice practice premium. There is no dollar value given for the benefits or malpractice insurance costs.
Here is the report by WTAE-TV’s Jim Parsons: Taxpayer money used for legislators’ medical treatment. Click here to see the contract with Dr. Grosh.
Back to the working poor, the estimated cost of continuing the Adult Basic health care program is reported to be $54 million. The surplus in legislative leaders’ accounts is $188 million.
The legislature’s own health insurance costs taxpayers $19,633 per lawmaker per year, according to a column byJohn Baer in the Philadelphia Daily News: Gov. Corbett: Read your mail, save the health plan. Senators have paid 1% of wages, or about $800 per year, for their health insurance since 2007. Representatives have paid nothing but will begin paying 1% in July.
Corbett pays top staff 11% more than Rendell
On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Gov. Corbett is paying his top staff significantly more than former Gov. Ed Rendell, an average of $129,303 for Corbett compared to $116,440 for Rendell, an increase of 11%. Corbett’s budget axe hasn’t taken swing at staff salaries, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 27.
Corbett’s office points out that he so far has hired two fewer high-level staff than Rendell so that the total spending is less.
Some in legislature have convictions
As the trial of Sen. Jane Orie, R-Allegheny, continues in Pittsburgh, one legislative staffer has joined the ranks of those sentenced for their crimes in the Bonus Scandal. Former House staffer Patrick Lavelle, Jr. was sentenced this week after pleading guilty to partisan fundraising at taxpayer expense. Lavelle, who cooperated with prosecutors, was sentenced to:
- Serve five years probation
- Pay $5,000 in fines
- Pay $22,000 in restitution to taxpayers for the bonus he received for his political work
- Perform 750 hours of community service
Lavelle worked for former Rep. Mike Veon, D-Beaver, who is currently serving a six to 14-year sentence for his role in the Bonus Scandal. Here’s the story: Bonusgate defendant PJ Lavelle, ex Veon aide, gets probation sentence, Harrisburg Patriot, March 1
Still awaiting trial are former House Speaker Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, and former House Speaker John Perzel, R-Phila. Other former representatives who also await trial are Brett Feese, R-Lycoming, and Steve Stetler, D-York. Former senator Raphael Musto, D-Luzerne, awaits trial on federal charges unrelated to the Bonus Scandal, and former Sen. Robert Mellow, D-Lackawanna, is the target of another federal grand jury investigation.
Speaking of the Orie trial, jury deliberations were halted today when prosecutors alleged that key defense documents were altered. Orie trial halted over allegation of doctored documents, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 3. Click here to see the documents in question.
If we lived in other states…
Common Cause PA’s Barry Kauffman points out that if Sen. President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson, and Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Washington, lived in any of 35 other states, they could be facing criminal charges today. The two are among an unknown number of lawmakers treated to the Super Bowl by Consol Energy, a leading energy firm with an interest in Marcellus shale drilling and extraction. Here are two stories:
Perks from PA drilling interests, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 13
Scarnati to pay back shale company for Super Bowl junket, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 14
Two-thirds of PA voters want to prohibit public officials, not just legislators, from taking gifts from lobbyists and special interests. The other states prove it can be done.
- Why can’t PA ban gifts as many other states have done and PA voters want to do?
- Why isn’t pushing public integrity a priority for the governor and legislative leaders?
- Why isn’t the generous package of salary and benefits that taxpayers provide enough for these people?
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