Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Oh That Public Pay

A new study of court salaries shows PA ranked third in the nation, another example of how we pay well -- for the sixth largest state.

Oh That Public Pay

(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

JB: Ya know how folks get all riled up over the paydays of "public servants," Arlene Ackerman's all-star salary being perhaps the most exteme example?

BE: I do.

JB: Well, it's a Pennsylvania thing.

BE: What is, people getting riled up?

JB: No. Public salaries getting pumped up. You already know, for example, our state lawmakers, all 253 of them, which, by the way, is WAY too many, are (at $79,623) second in the nation in base pay behind only California ($95,290), having slipped ahead of New York ($79,500) thanks to automatic annual raises. And, yeah, I know Michigan looks higher because in addition to base salary of $71,685 its lawmakers get $10,800 in expenses, but (a) I'm talking base pay and (b) our lawmakers get plenty of other perks PLUS whatever level of expenses they feel than can get away with.

BE: We do well by our lawmakers. If only we got what we paid for. What else?

JB: Well, a survey recently released by the Center for State Courts says our top state judges rank third in the nation in base pay behind only California and Illinois.

BE: What's the haul of our robed ones?

JB: There are three state courts: Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth with seven, 15 and nine judges, respectively. Justices on the top court get $189,620; the rest get $178,914. President judges get more. And, of course, there are senior judges paid on a per diem basis.

BE: So our judges also do pretty well. What's your point?

JB: My point is really twofold.

BE: The first fold being?

JB: We're the sixth largest state. Why are we paying higher public salaries than states larger than we are?

BE: Because we're a state made up of the old and the apathetic?

JB: Possibly. But, secondly, this good-pay thing appears to apply only in the public sector. The most recent data from U.S. Census says PA residents, you know, the rest of us, even when these high public salaries are factored in, rank 17th nationally in "average annual pay."

BE: We were probably 20th before we hired Ackerman.

JB: Grrr.

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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