Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why Did We Eventually Play Ball on the PA Pay Raise Issue?

In these troubling economic times here is some great news from Harrisburg.

"Pennsylvania lawmakers have a scary budgetary hole to deal with in 2009.

On Wednesday, they learned exactly how much more they'll be paid trying to plug it.

House and Senate members will receive a 2.8 percent raise, setting lawmakers' base pay at $78,315.

The 30 legislative leaders will receive more. Their pay will range from $89,300 for caucus administrators, secretaries and policy-committee chairmen, to $122,254 for the speaker of the House and Senate president pro tempore.

The legislative raises will kick in Dec. 1. They will be based on the annual change in the federal Consumer Price Index for the Mid-Atlantic region for the 12-month period ending in October.

The same 2.8 percent increase is due judges statewide, though their raises won't take effect until Jan. 1.

The judiciary's pay will run from $191,876 for Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille to $161,850 for county judges and $80,927 for local magisterial district justices.

The cost-of-living adjustment also applies to Gov. Ed Rendell and his Cabinet secretaries, effective Jan. 1. Their new salaries were not available yesterday, but based on 2008 pay levels, the governor's salary would jump to $174,956.

Rendell said Wednesday he might consider suspending the executive-branch raises in keeping with his frugality plan. The plan was brought on by slumping state revenues that might finish the current fiscal year between $1 billion and $2 billion below projections.

Rendell did forego his automatic pay raise in 2004, shortly after he negotiated a pay freeze for all state workers under his jurisdiction. At that time, he also "recommended" that his Cabinet secretaries and senior staff members pass on their raises, and they did."

It's pretty amazing that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court makes more than the Governor of Pennsylvania. A Democratically controlled House is going to be the downfall of this state. The important question to ask of the Majority Leader and the Speaker is why they kept the pay raise even after it was repealed.

As I stated before, according to the 2004 census California had 35 million residents and Pennsylvania had 12 million. California has 120 total legislators. Pennsylvania has 256 legislators. Losing 171 legislators (1/3 of 256) would save the state a minimum of $13 million per year. That figure would greatly increase when you consider the staff, support personell, and benefits that would not be needed in such a streamlining effort. It's okay to laugh at the suggestion. But there are many people losing their jobs right now due to an economic downturn. Why should our government be spared from shrinking when its tax base is evaporating before its very eyes?

The only hope I see in this entire mess is that Tom Corbett continues in his quest to remove public officials who take advantage of public trust. Did we really become that complacent in our state to accept the pay raise issue as business as usual?

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