Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Pennsylvania Officials Getting 1.7% Pay Increase Starting December 1 . . . Some Lawmakers are Standing behind Campaign Promises and Not Accepting Increase! What Will State Rep Warren Kampf Decide?

After elections won by many candidates based on fiscal conservatism, amid high unemployment numbers and screams to stop the spending, how is it possible that in Pennsylvania all the top officials, including legislators and judges, are getting pay raises of 1.7 percent?

That’s right, newly elected and returning legislators will get this cost-of-living pay raise starting December 1, when the new Legislature opens for business, even though they won’t be sworn in until January. Apparently, a 1995 law makes such adjustments automatic. State legislators’ salaries will increase from $78, 315 to $79,623, while the higher-ranking officials are paid more.

Do you remember the middle-of-the-night pay raise scandal in 2005? Pennsylvania lawmakers voted themselves a 16% salary increase making themselves the second highest paid legislators in the country (second only to California). The voters were outraged and amid powerful public backlash, the law was repealed several months later. In the 2006 elections, voters turned 24 incumbents out of office.

This year’s cost-of-living raises are authorized by a 1995 law and are based on changes in the US Dept of Labor’s Consumer Price Index that is set for the year ending in each October. Although that usually results in an increase, the index declined in 2009 and there was no adjustment to that year. Although I have not always been a fan of Governor Rendell, it should be noted that the governor has turned back his raises since 2008, and accepted no salary increase. Rendell does however pay taxes based on the full-authorized amount.

Based on campaign promises of fiscal conservatism in Election 2010, do you think our elected officials should keep their 1.7% salary increase? It is already being reporting that some legislators across the state are standing up to their campaign promises and refusing the salary increase. State Representative Brad Roae (R) representing the sixth legislative district is accepting his cost-of-living increase (which amounts to approximately $100 extra per month) but is giving the extra pay to a different charity each month. State Sen. Richard Alloway (R) from Franklin County has publicly stated that he will not take the increase because he expects state workers to be laid off in 2011, and thinks taking the extra pay sends the wrong message to his constituents.

For those Pennsylvania legislators who campaigned on controlling legislative expenses, how can they now accept the pay increase?

Fiscal responsibility was certainly a hallmark in our recent local election, so wonder what our newly elected State Representative Warren Kampf will decide. Should he keep his 1.7 percent increase?

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