Reaching our limit Featured

7:53am EDT September 29, 2005
I did an informal and unscientific survey of CEOs recently that posed the question, ‘What is the toughest thing about doing business in Pittsburgh?’

The respondents were noticeably balanced in their responses. While most agreed that Pittsburgh is a great place to live, and many praised employees’ work ethic and dedication, some of the same leaders decried punitive business taxes and crummy infrastructure as two of the most powerful negatives.

Successful entrepreneurs and business leaders are rarely crybabies, but rather pragmatic, resourceful and determined. I don’t think they’ve just been riding the bandwagon against punitive business taxes and lack of governmental initiative just to sound cranky.

They’re genuinely concerned about the disincentives that excessive taxes and poor infrastructure provide to business creation and retention. Interestingly, those two complaints can be laid largely on the doorstep of our bloated, overpaid state legislators.

With the endorsement of the governor, our state legislators had the audacity to vote themselves a big, fat pay raise while businesses are struggling to keep their doors open and their employees are trying to keep up with the rising costs of health care and energy. Our legislators don’t have an easy job, but who among us has the pull to give ourselves a raise at the expense of someone else, no matter how hard we work?

I don’t think any of the wise people who founded this great republic envisioned a professional class of elected officials making a career of holding a seat in the legislature. The idea was that you served a term or two and then returned to private life.

Our current system, with the complicity of lazy voters, encourages and even expects politicians to hold office for decades.

If you think this is a pitch for term limits, it is, but only by the hand of the voters. Laws that prevent legislators from serving more than a specified number of terms, I believe, are undemocratic. But I will suggest that when you go to the polls next month, think about exercising your right to limit the terms of your local officials. It might make future officeholders think twice about voting themselves a raise.