Pennsylvanians are going to have to push hard and continuously if there is going to be any chance of reducing the size - and we hope the expense - of the state Legislature.
The state House took the first step in a long march toward that end last week by approving a measure that eventually could reduce the number of state representatives from 203 to 153 and senators from 50 to 38.
If ultimately approved, the cuts would not occur until the redistricting process following the 2020 census.
While the proposed constitutional amendment is far from ideal in reducing the Legislatures size, it is a step in the right direction.
The measure passed 140-49, but five of the region's eight state representatives - a mixture of Republicans and Democrats - voted against the reductions.
Opponents claim the reductions will result in larger districts, which will require more staff, reduce the influence of rural areas and increase the power of the executive branch. They say a reduction in size does not guarantee a savings for taxpayers.
Indeed, House Speaker Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, said his goal in proposing reducing the size of the House by nearly 25 percent is to make it more efficient, not to save money.
But reducing the burden on taxpayers should be one of the priorities.
It's difficult - at least for those of us paying the bills - to justify Pennsylvania having the largest full-time legislature (253 members) in the nation, not to mention one of the most expensive.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Pennsylvania's base pay for legislators of $82,026 is the second highest in the nation behind California, which pays $95,291 a year.
Of course, California has far fewer legislators - 40 senators and 80 representatives - even though it has about three times the population and land area of Pennsylvania. And California's Legislature manages to operate with about one-third fewer staff members, NCSL reports show. Pennsylvania had 2,918 permanent staff members in 2009, while California had 2,067.
Does Pennsylvania really need such a large and costly General Assembly?
Reducing the size of the state Legislature will be a Herculean effort because it involves amending the state constitution. That requires the exact same measure be approved by two consecutive sessions of the state Legislature before the matter can be presented to voters.
That means there are a lot of opportunities for opponents to sidetrack the effort, moving us back to square one.
It's important that residents don't allow this to happen. If people speak out now and continue to do so, they might be able to force legislators to look beyond their self-interests and begin to pare down the size of the General Assembly.
At a time when families, schools and social services are told to get by with less, it's time to expect the same of our Legislature.
The measure to reduce the General Assembly by 62 positions is a step in the right direction.