A salary, nearly free health insurance, per diem payments, tickets to sporting events, and free meals from lobbyists are just some of the perks that members of the General Assembly enjoy while they are in office. After they leave, many are eligible for a generous pension and continued enrolment in a health insurance plan, at little cost, you don’t find in the private sector. All of this is to say that lawmakers are compensated generously for their “service.”
Despite the compensation, many lawmakers are also treated to further ego boosting when they have a highway, building, or other public project named after them. The utility, outside of generating positive media coverage, of naming public projects after contemporary figures is questionable. Memorializing fallen soldiers and first responders through the practice expresses an understandable level of gratitude, but is this something the General Assembly ought to be doing for their contemporaries? Does serving in office for over a decade warrant the same level of recognition as dying on a battlefield?
We don’t raise this question as a rhetorical device. There is legislation currently on the Senate calendar, SB 397, designating an interchange on of the Mon-Fayette Expressway in western Pennsylvania the “Senator Richard A. Kasunic Interchange.” As the legislation notes, Sen. Kasunic was the driving force behind the construction of the Expressway. What is left out of the bill is that the final portion of the expansion was included on City Lab’s list “12 of America’s Biggest Highway Boondoggles.”
Sen. Kasunic is already receiving over $70,000 per year in pension payments, and exceptional healthcare benefits in his retirement. Should the general assembly also be forcing taxpayers to celebrate a politician?