Op-Ed: The Time is Right to Reduce the Size of the PA General Assembly

By: Senator David G. Argall

In the near future, I will again introduce legislation to reduce the size of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly to provide an important cost-saving measure. Since the state’s last Constitutional Convention in 1968, dozens of similar proposals have been offered, but all have failed. However, I believe that the time is now right for the General Assembly to take decisive action on this issue.

Passing legislation to reduce the size of the legislature is no easy task. However, the state’s recent financial hardships have created a “perfect storm” of factors that could allow the state to ultimately reduce the size of the legislature. The Senate has taken a number of important steps to reduce costs, but I believe these cost-saving measures do not go far enough. The General Assembly cannot continue to ask state agencies to continue to cut costs unless we are also willing to lead by example.

It is important to remember that most major reforms are not accomplished overnight. This proposal would require an amendment to the state Constitution. To become law, the proposal would have to pass in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly and be approved by the voters through a referendum.

My proposal would make several reductions in the number of legislators over a period of time, culminating in 50 fewer House members by 2053 and five fewer Senators by 2033. I believe it is important to offer a plan that will have a realistic chance of winning legislative approval instead of a more dramatic proposal that will end up languishing in various legislative committees. If a majority of my colleagues in the General Assembly favor a faster reduction, I would gladly support that measure. However, I believe my proposal to enact incremental changes to the size of the legislature has the best chance to garner support. I strongly believe that the pace of these changes is far less important than accomplishing the ultimate goal of winning final legislative approval.

With the state struggling to close massive budget deficits in recent years, it is important to consider every avenue to help save taxpayer dollars. As I worked with members of the Senate’s bipartisan Government Management and Cost Study Commission last year to identify ways to save taxpayers $400 million, reducing the size of the legislature was the most popular suggestion submitted by members of the public. My bill would help save as much as $10 million annually. While this is no silver bullet to solve all of the state’s financial woes, this is a significant savings to taxpayers. The public overwhelmingly favors a smaller legislature, and I am hopeful we can now build on this momentum to get this legislation approved.

Contact: Jon Hopcraft
(717) 787-2637
(570) 773-0891

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