Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Corbett Calls for 4% Pay Cut for State Workers as Dark Shadow of Government Shutdown Hangs Over Capital Hill

Teachers in Pennsylvania may be the envy of the state’s public workers. Teachers unions were asked to consider a one-year pay freeze, but many state workers may not be so lucky. In fact, a pay freeze looks charitable when compared to the sacrifice asked of state workers in Pennsylvania’s largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

To help close the $4.2 billion budget deficit, Gov. Tom Corbett wants the 45,000 public employees to help by absorbing a 4 percent pay cut in the first year of a new three-year contract. Corbett’s administration suggests that the workers would be made ‘whole’ again within two years. AFSCME’s agreement usually provides the guidepost for pacts with other unions. Contracts with AFSCME and 16 other state employee unions will expire on June 30.

Some of the lowest-paid workers in the state, AFSCME workers are paid about $34,000 a year on average. The state custodians, nursing assistants, clerical workers and snowplow drivers would see their salary drop to $32,640 under Corbett’s plan. It is anticipated that the AMFSCME pay decrease would save the state more than $60 million. If my math is correct, the cost savings from the 4 percent pay cut would equate to approximately 1.5 percent of the state budget deficit or $6 million.

Many of the public workers are already living paycheck-to-paycheck. Question, is it fair to ask for this level of sacrifice from those already struggling to get by? AFSCME workers offered Corbett their willingness to take a salary freeze for one year but the Governor rejected their offer. After all, isn’t this what Corbett had proposed for the state’s teachers?

In Corbett’s budget address last month, he warned that he would be seeking concessions from public workers. His words spoke of the painful steps that would be required to close the budget gap but I don’t know that the state workers were prepared for the level of pain they may be forced to feel!

I certainly support the notion that these difficult economic times require all of us to sacrifice, but . . . . I also have to wonder if lawmakers and top-level state managers will be asked to share the same level of pain as the public workers. I have not heard mention of suggested pay cuts for our elected officials.

As I complete this post, there is a dark shadow hanging over Capital Hill as the federal government shutdown clock continues to tick down. Washington is scrambling as the clock counts down. Failure to reach a deal for the remaining six months of the fiscal year would trigger a government shutdown at midnight tonight, causing more than 800,000 nonessential employees to be furloughed without pay. It is interesting to note that our nations lawmakers would continue to receive their paycheck!

Here’s hoping for a last-minute agreement; a government shutdown is in no one’s best interest!

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  1. I know plenty of people who would line up for these jobs at the 4% pay cut salary/benefit/pension level. These workers are not bad people and are not being demonized, but they should also remember to be thankful they have jobs in this tough time.

    And, to be fair, the Gov’s staff should not be immune either.

    1. Interesting that you know plenty of people lining up for $32,000/yr jobs. Fascinating that the teachers are not expected to take a 4% cut in their pay & I would bet their average salary is more than $34K/yr. Corbett only suggested that teachers take a one-year salary freeze which we already see that Radnor teachers decided against. An offer of a salary freeze from public workers wasn’t good enough for Corbett.

      What about Corbett, his appointees + elected officials-are they asked to feel the pain with a salary cut. Havent seen mention of those cuts. Why should the focus for cuts be on the lowest level of earner in the state, how about shared pain. Wonder what the average cabinet position pays, what about the turnpike commissioner, what is that salary.

    2. You know what…I am tired of the “you are lucky you have a job” stuff.
      Republican demonization of the working man/women is going to come home to roost next year when they are thrown out of office. Live it up today boys! Pass all your elitist legislation today folks! Cause tomorrow the working people of Pennsylvania and American are going to remember.
      You are making some BIG mistakes.

      1. “Cause tomorrow the working people of Pennsylvania and American are going to remember.”

        Yes, but will they remember when they go to collect their pensions and find that there is no money there, or the money that they receive is worthless? Who will get the blame when they realize that all that has been promised to them was just a load of crap?

  2. Are Corbett and staff going to take a 4% pay cut, and pay some more for there health insurance. I keep on hearing this is a shared responsiblity. Sorry, just not seeing it.

  3. What about cuts to managers, faculty, and campus police? They make more money than the AFSCME employees. The AFSCME employees are the lowest paid of all these groups! Corbett is really showing his “Republican” here. All of the politicians should agree to cuts in pay as well! Let’s stop beating up on the little guys!

  4. Recently had breakfast with a lovely retired school superintendent from New York state. He was talking about how lucrative his pension was — the state paid 2% per year up to a max of 35 years on his final 3 years, and his district had given him other perks to retain him for a few extra years (health care) beyond when he was entitled to retire (since it maxes at 35 years, I guess most retire then). What was most interesting is that he was talking with his grown sons about their 401K plans and how he told them about his plan. It went far beyond anything his kids could save for, given the risk of the markets. He agreed that public service benefits are simply not sustainable. He was amazed that PA had 2.5% a year without any limit on the number of years (“make more in a pension than a salary??”) — and said that he didn’t see how taxpayers could continue to simply pay into these retirement plans. He said when he was in the system, he had no idea just how out of balance the benefits were with the rest of the economy, but as a retiree, he can see how comfortable he and his wife are on this pension plan.
    I told him he should write an op ed piece for the NYT — to explain this perspective. I have always said one of the flaws of the whole system is that it is so inbred — so few “in” the system are even vaguely aware of what the rest of the world does. They grow up in the teaching field and all they share is how hard they work and how underpaid they are.
    I’m not saying that any of this is FAIR — it’s just true.

    Public sector employees taking a cut because that’s about all the governor can do that falls directly under his control?

  5. What about a 4% severance tax?

    It is not the tax passed by the House last year, but it sure beats the free ride the Governor is proposing for his friends , the gas and energy companies.

  6. This Governor has got to be kidding, cutting the salaries of the lowest paid workers in the state. Him and his cronies are taking no reduction in salaries or paying more for benefits. He lets his fatcat friends in the Marcellus Shale industry get off easy on taxes and will not address the Delaware tax loophole for large corporations. Also will not seek a tax on smokeless tobacco products. Addressing these issues could raise plenty capital for our state budget. It’s time for people to wake up and realize what these republican governors are doing before there are no decent jobs left in P.A.

  7. I’ve worked for the commonwealth of pa for for over 10 years as a clerk 2. I don’t come close to making $32k a year…after taxes it’s under $20k.

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