McGinnis’ standard should be applauded

I hope residents of the 79th Legislative District and all across the commonwealth will join me in a grateful, enthusiastic salute to the truly honorable Rep. John D McGinnis.

Next week, McGinnis will officially keep the last of several promises he made (and kept) almost seven years ago — to serve no more than three terms in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. I suspect that many of his colleagues in state government, both Democrats and Republicans, will be glad to see him go.

For the past seven years, McGinnis comported himself as a candidate and as an elected official in precisely the way it should be done — in steadfast accordance with core principles and specific promises clearly and unambiguously articulated.

In doing so, he set an example that ought to be the gold standard for everyone aspiring to elected office.

In 2012, McGinnis mounted a primary challenge against an incumbent poster child for Harrisburg self-dealing. McGinnis’ campaign approach was to establish a contract with voters based on very specific promises. His campaign also included a harsh but justified critique of his opponent’s record.

The contrast between the two could hardly have been clearer. The incumbent had held “his seat” for 34 years. McGinnis promised to serve no more than three terms.

In 2001, the incumbent voted to increase his own state pension by 50 percent. That vote, followed by years of funding malfeasance, in which he was complicit, has produced the single greatest financial crisis in the history of the commonwealth.

McGinnis promised to decline the state pension, and he made good on that promise seven days after being elected. He has spent the past seven years warning the General Assembly, and anyone else who would listen, of the commonwealth’s massive, snowballing pension crisis.

The incumbent voted for the infamous midnight pay-raise. McGinnis promised not to accept any net salary increases. He kept that promise by donating the total of his net salary increases to the Altoona Area School District, the city of Altoona, Allegheny Township, Logan Township, Blair County, the Altoona Public Library and the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home.

McGinnis promised he would document his actual expenses rather than accept per diems. Over his six years in office, McGinnis was reimbursed for documented expenses totaling $18,883.

If he had accepted the per diems, as many members of the General Assembly do, he would have received over $100,000 with the difference being tax-free income. His legislative office expenditures were less than the annual allocation every year of his tenure, resulting in total taxpayer savings of approximately $120,000.

McGinnis’ greatest contribution was shining light on the state pension funding crisis. In that unfaltering effort, he served not only the 79th District, but the entire state.

It was a crusade that put him at odds with a majority of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle and his own party’s leadership.

Exposing a festering problem has a way of embarrassing those who have chosen to ignore it, and McGinnis didn’t mince words. He spelled out the consequences of the General Assembly’s dereliction and argued for a responsible approach to solving Penn­sylvania’s state pension problems.

McGinnis promised to be a faithful and prudent steward of the taxpayers’ money and the trust placed in him by voters. He was better than his word.

So let us stand and applaud John McGinnis precisely because he doesn’t fit the mold of our most popular politicians. Or better still, in his honor, proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.

Erik Brown