Monday, October 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Lawmakers Get Another Pay Raise

The annual automatic pay raise for lawmakers kicks in Dec. 1 just in time for the happy holiday season.

Lawmakers Get Another Pay Raise

Pennsylvania´s capitol building in Harrisburg.
Pennsylvania's capitol building in Harrisburg.

It's that time of the year again.

Your 253 state lawmakers, members of the largest full-time Legislature in America, are about to collect yet another annual automatic pay raise pushing their base salary up 2.2% to $83,802.

Full details are provided in a Tuesday Harrisburg Patriot-News account.

This in a state where median household income is $50,398 -- which is below the national average, according to current U.S. Census data.

And, of course, it comes on top of generous health care and pension benefits, tax-free per diem payments and many other perks.

Lawmakers might want to send a little thank-you note to former Gov. Tom Ridge who, after saying as a candidate he'd oppose a legislative pay hike, signed a bill his first year in office (1995) granting a raise and installing the annual automatic boost.

One nice little touch to the law is that the annual raise is based on the Consumer Price Index for Philly, which is always the highest in the state. It's about the only time the Legislature as a body is grateful for Philadelphia.

As a result, the increase is more than millions of Pennsylvanians on Social Security will be getting. Their increase for 2013 is 1.7 percent.

The new pay scale also applies to the state's more than 1,000 judges and kicks in Dec. 1.

In fairness, there are lawmakes who return the raise to the state treasury or donate it to charity but it still counts towards their pension benefit and, in the case of donations, offers tax breaks.

Gov. Corbett, he of fiscal responsibility, doesn't take the raise. His salary will remain at $174,914 -- which is the same as when he took office in January 2011. His cabinet officers don't take the raise either.

The irony here is that lawmakers increasingly seek to tie state spending, teacher salaries and more to things such as "performance" and "accountability."

If such standards were applied to lawmakers, many if not most would owe us money. And since economic forecasters predict private-sector workers' pay is certain to remain stagnant, a lot of us could use it.

Oh, by the way, GRRRRR!

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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