State budget talks not for everybody - abc27 WHTM

State budget talks not for everybody

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The Pennsylvania House of Representatives put off a scheduled vote on the state budget Tuesday.

A House Republican spokesman said leaders decided to postpone the vote until Wednesday so lawmakers could get "a fresh start" on the expected debate.

But according to one long-time observer, the debate you see on the floor is separate from what actually goes on with budget negotiations. Political activist Eric Epstein said the actual work only involves a core group of powerful caucus leaders.

"There are only about 12 to 15 legislators that make the budget with the governor behind closed doors," he said. "The other 240 don't do much of anything other than collect a paycheck, submit a per diem and eat for free and have a lot of fund raisers."

Epstein said the rank-and-file does have a role: to vote the way the leaders tell them to vote. He said the less influence lawmakers have, the less money they get for their people.

"So essentially, if you're a freshman legislator, you're irrelevant and the district that you represent has no representation," he said. "That's reality. You could be a representative with a lot of power in the middle of nowhere and have a bridge paved over and over and over again, and be a freshman legislator and be in an area that needs a bridge and that bridge ain't ever getting paved."

We tried to get input from a handful of current and former lawmakers on this story, but they either declined or were unavailable.

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