A Capitol anniversary: Remembering the 2005 pay raise

Our ace intern Evan Trowbridge filed this report from an event this morning in the Capitol on the anniversary of the 2005 pay raise:

Five years after state legislators passed their own pay raise in the early hours of the morning, reform leaders honored its anniversary with sharp criticism and two giant inflatable pigs.

(Evan Trowbridge / Staff)

Citing last week’s budget negotiations, when legislators voted to suspend the rules in order to pass a spending bill on time, reformers questioned whether the post-2005 pay raise message has sunk in.

The rules were put in place to guard against abuses of power, and the fact that the General Assembly was able to lift them last week exemplified that current safeguards are insufficient, the speakers said.

“This budget was a collective middle finger to the reform eyeball of every Pennsylvanian,” said Eric Epstein of RocktheCapital.org. “Reform has come to mean nothing … It’s an empty promise.”

The now infamous vote by the General Assembly to raise members' pay by 16 to 54 percent early on July 7, 2005, led to the repeal of the raise later that year, and the defeat or departure of a number of legislators the following year, including the top two Senate Republican leaders.

Tim Potts, director of Democracy Rising PA, said a large portion of the blame rests on Gov. Ed Rendell.
“This governor has been a monumental failure,” Potts said.

He said that government reform needs to be a driving factor for the next governor and that Democracy Rising PA has submitted a questionnaire on reform stances to gubernatorial candidates Tom Corbett and Dan Onorato. The questionnaire asks for a response by Aug. 1.

While Potts and the others called for change within the capitol building, two inflatable pigs - the symbol of the pay raise - hovered outside.
Gene Stilp, a citizen activist well known for using props and humor to communicate his message, said that his “pink pay raise pigs” had to be at the Capitol in light of the pay raise anniversary and last week’s budget negotiations.

Stilp has been using the pigs ever since the pay raise controversy first started. He added that their representation of government pork is just as applicable to last week’s budget negotiations as it was in 2005.

“Instead of taking care of the truly needy, they are taking care of the truly greedy,” Stilp said.