Colleagues can learn a lesson from McGinnis

It’s too bad that only about 30 people showed up for state Rep. John McGinnis’ town hall meeting at the Altoona Area Public Library on June 1.

The range of topics McGinnis, R-Altoona, discussed provided an important look inside Pennsylvania state government — and, most importantly, into the state’s problems.

Those problems were the basis for McGinnis proclaiming that “we have a very lousy state government,” and he probably wasn’t off-target with that observation.

It’s a viewpoint that many other lawmakers justifiably could be making in their districts as well.

Regardless, the wide-ranging discussion at McGinnis’ session was the kind that voters in every one of the 203 state House districts and 50 senatorial districts should have at least once a year with their elected officials, perhaps even more often.

This was an opportunity for a newfound understanding about the daunting issues facing the Keystone State — the truth that all is not well — and what the voters should be thinking about, going forward.

About 100 members of Indivisible Blair County, a nonpartisan, progressive group, met with state Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, on May 31 for a discussion that centered on health care, pipelines and school vouchers. However, McGinnis’ town hall got to the core of the critical financial dangers that lie ahead for the commonwealth, especially the behemoth pension-funding morass.

All who understand the importance of realistic budgeting within their own households have to be troubled by McGinnis’ statement that the 2017-18 state budget currently being assembled won’t really be balanced, even though the government’s legislative and executive branches might seem to project such a message — an irresponsible, foolhardy message — when the budget finally is passed.

Lawmakers and the governor shouldn’t treat the state’s populace as fools easily duped.

The fact is that for much of the past decade Pennsylvania residents have been misled about the depths of the state’s financial condition. Meanwhile, the proverbial clock has continued to tick toward what most certainly will be a fiscal doomsday for the commonwealth, if state government continues to ignore tough decisions to reverse the continuingly worsening fiscal saga that now carries the deficit number of about $3 billion.

And that number doesn’t include the more than $60 billion pension catastrophe, the burden of which becomes apparent by the news that an inadequate $6 billion payment — which isn’t enough to cover the annual interest — is part of the 2017-18 budget proposal.

Even the pension legislation approved Thursday, and which Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to sign on Monday, will do virtually nothing in the short term — and not enough in the long term — to resolve the pension mess haunting the commonwealth.

Expanded gambling won’t be Pennsylvania’s fiscal savior, although lawmakers’ emphasis on it at this time might cause some residents to believe so.

Unfortunately, money, the state’s biggest problem, isn’t the commonwealth’s only problem demanding serious attention. Many of the commonwealth’s problems are rooted in the Legislature’s bloated size.

Pennsylvania government could perform much more efficiently with a House of Representatives half its current size and a Senate with, perhaps, 35 members.

McGinnis built his town hall session on a platform of getting to the point.

Other lawmakers should “tell it like it is” to their constituents too.

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