ANY TIME the Harrisburg Patriot-News reviews salaries of state employees, it creates a nice voyeuristic buzz in the capital city.
So it is this week following publication, online and in print, of a series of stories, "The $100,000 Club," about state government's top take-homers.
(It's viewable at pennlive.com.)
Who doesn't like to know what their neighbor makes? And what's more fun than comparing government pay with government productivity?
Gives ranters a chance to rant, "They get HOW much?"
And there are a few jaw-droppers.
There's the increase in club membership over the past five years. It's up 59 percent to 4,822 folks.
On the other hand, there are roughly 80,000 state workers (down from a high of 118,000 in 1975), so only about 6 percent make six figures.
The average state pay is $50,598.
Still, a breakdown of the top 100 - those making $197,945 to $367,449 - is interesting.
Half (49) are psychiatrists or other physicians in the Department of Public Welfare. Their base salaries are augmented by overtime (in some cases amounting to more than their salaries) and bonuses.
One could argue that (a) these are folks doing God's work who could make more in the private sector, or (b) these are subpar docs who defaulted to public payrolls then proceeded to milk them.
Likely the group has samples of (a) and (b).
Another area well-represented in the top 100 is higher ed, either at state universities or in higher-ed assistance. There are 26 from that group.
This does not count Penn State, Pitt, Temple or Lincoln. Although they all get state money, their employees are not counted in the state's complement.
The top 100 includes 10 members of the State Police (overtime is good there) and, somewhat ironically, six folks working for state retirement systems, which, as you may have heard, face a gazillion-dollar pension shortfall.
But some big paydays have a story.
Take lawyer Vincent DeLiberato, who heads the Legislative Reference Bureau, where the thousands of bills we enjoy and benefit from are drafted every year.
He pulled in $318,115. More than half came from accumulated unused leave.
Maybe we can strike a deal. If the state adopts a use-it-or-lose-it policy, we promise - as hard as it might be - to live our lives with fewer bill introductions.
West Chester University swimming/diving coach James Rudisill took home $260,768. Most was from a lump-sum grievance award and his share (up to 20 percent) of fees paid to the school for swim camps.
Nice that he isn't financially underwater, but seems a pretty generous share for use of public property.
The full list includes 500 trial judges and justices in the $160,000-to-$199,000 range.
And further down - $130,000 to $160,000 - are various Capitol aides, policy and budgetary experts and, of course, communications folks (no comment).
Some are good, some are not, but all are well-paid, especially those living in central Pennsylvania. The average per-capita income in four counties covering and surrounding the capital city is $28,086.
Public salaries and perks make great fodder for those who believe government should do more and for those who believe it should shrink and do less.
Think about the base pay of $83,802 (plus perks, pensions, per diems) for 253 state lawmakers; $123,600 for 17 City Council members; $174,438 for Mayor Nutter; $178,033 for Gov. Corbett; $174,000 for 535 members of Congress (unaffected, of course, by "the sequester"); $400,000 for President Obama (just no White House tours) and on and on, year after year, no matter the state of the nation, the state of the state or the state of the city.
It's good to air how public money is spent. But probably not so good to dwell on what most of the public gets in return.