Friday, December 3, 2010

Legislature Pay Raise- Same Old Issue With A New Twist

Recent artilces and reports by the media told us that more Pennsylvania legislators and the governor are forgoing the pay raise slated for next year. Andrew Seder of the Times Leader penned this story on the topic.

The real problem for Pennsylvania taxpayers is the fact that their elected official are still taking the money from the Commonwealth's Treasury. I believe that is an important point for newly elected officials to consider. I know that their intentions are good but feel they need to look at the greater picture.

The last two elections were turning points in political history. The people want government to change. If they don't get it from one party they are fickle as hell. They will jump ship faster than greased lightning.

Consider the following:

1. Taking the COLA in any form still means legislators are taking it from the taxpayers in a time when Pennsylvania is facing a $5 billion deficit.

2. Forget the argument that it is a small, insignificant amount and won't make a difference in the Treasury. Leaders must lead by example regardless of the maginitude of the impact. At the very least the COLA amount for this year in its entirety between both chambers of our bicameral legislture is over $330,000.00. Last time I checked to the average voter that is a huge amount.

3. There are many Consumer Price Indexes(CPI). Price indexes are available for the U.S., the four Census regions, size of city, cross-classifications of regions and size-classes, and for 26 local areas. Due to differences in the CPI picked for calculating solons' raises(CPI for mid Atlantic states) our legislators received $7,751.16 more per seat since 2003 more than if the same CPI determinator used for seniors receiving Social Security was applied over the same time period. As a result, since 2003, the legislature received a total increase of $1,961,043.48. Leadership figures will bump that calculation slightly higher but safe to say over $2 million dollars. That's not chump change by any standard.

4. Taxpayers know that Legislators accepting the raise and donating it to charity still means the dollar amount used will go towards calculation of their pension.

5. Taxpayers know that the pension also has a COLA attached to it compounding the benefit of accepting a COLA and donating it to charity.

6. Taxpayers know that Legislators are getting the credit for donations to charities by those organizations rather than the taxpayers receiving the credit for their hard earned money.

It is time to turn off the COLA process for the next few years until their pay balances out with what it would have been using the CPI multiplier used by seniors. Next, unless they repeal the COLA, they should change the CPI used for calculating their COLA to the one seniors are forced to accept by the federal legislators.

Lastly they should always be mindful that California is a five hour flight but you can be there through the internet in 0.4 seconds. The new twist I am making is that it very easy to see what legislators in other states are making. The National Conference of State Legislatures complied this list of salaries and per diems for state lawmakers. Only California and New York surpass Pennsylvania in annual pay.

The Waccama Times reports on pension benefits for state legislators. Nine states – Alabama, California, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming – no longer provide pensions to state legislators, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures in Washington, D.C.

In South Carolina, retired legislators earn an annual average of $19,605 in gross retirement benefits, based on July figures from the state retirement system.
Newly retired Keith McCall could receive a benefit near $90,000.00 according to the Post Gazette. Prior to retirement his salary was $122,254 as Speaker of the House.

With information like that Governor-elect Tom Corbett will have plenty of ammunition to support his campaign platform of reducing the size of Pennsylvania's legisalture as part of government reform.

Reducing the Size & Cost of Government – The size and cost of state government has grown out of control, and it is time to bring fiscal responsibility and accountability back to Pennsylvania. We must continue the forward momentum on streamlining state government by reducing the cost of how state government does business. Through technology upgrades, centralizing communications between agencies and lowering the overall administrative costs associated with running state government, we can return millions of dollars to Pennsylvanians. Tom Corbett has called for a 10 percent reduction in government administrative operations in all branches of government.

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