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Vote Warranted On Pay Raises

November 23, 2018

Vote Warrantedon Pay Raises

State legislators skedaddled from Harrisburg to campaign for the Nov. 6 election without attending to a host of important matters. They had peace of mind on one issue as they headed to the stump, however — their own raises for 2019.

Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that the lawmakers, executive branch officials and judges from the minor judiciary through the state Supreme Court all will receive 1.6 percent pay increases, which also will result in higher public pension contributions.

There was no bill, no debate, no vote. Rather, under one of the state government’s most cynical policies, the raises are automatic, based on the urban consumer price index for the Middle Atlantic states, regardless of whether the state official lives and works in Scranton, Coudersport or Philadelphia.

Base annual pay for each of the 253 members of the nation’s largest full-time state legislature will rise by $1,430 to $88,600. Each of the four floor leaders for the Democratic and Republican caucuses in the House and Senate will be paid $128,400; caucus whips and ranking members of appropriations committees will receive $118,800. Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, Allegheny County Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Joe Scarnati, Jefferson County Republican, will be paid $138,300.

Salaries for county court judges will rise to $183,000. Lt. Gov.-elect, John Fetterman’s salary will be more than $166,300. Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Treasurer Joe Torsella and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale each will make $164,700. Gov. Tom Wolf’s 18 Cabinet secretaries each will be paid $158,400 and the govern’s pay will rise to $198,000 (Wolf donates his salary to charity). Chief Justice Thomas Saylor will continue to be the highest-paid state official, with a $3,400 increase to about $217,000.

Whether public officials should receive raises always is debatable, and one would think that in a representative democracy there would be, well ... a debate. Not in Pennsylvania, though, where lawmakers have designed a system specifically to preclude having to justify their pay increases.

Some lawmakers contend that their elections or re-elections constitute validation, but since they have drawn their own districts to select their own voters, the opposite probably is closer to the truth.

Legislators should stop giving themselves automatic raises and vote on their compensation every two years, before elections.

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