State lawmakers get automatic pay raises

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It’s an annual holiday tradition: state lawmakers get automatic pay raises. Some refuse them. Some say they should be banned. The pay raises stay in effect.

“Just being from the outside coming in as a new person, I just don’t think that we should get it. I don’t think it’s fair,” said state Rep. Patty Kim (D-103rd).

For Kim and many other legislators, her pay will increase to just over $84,000. Kim decided to return her pay increase to the state treasury. Some other lawmakers donate their increases to charity. Still, in the cases of lawmakers who’ve vested long enough in the system, Kim says the raises count toward their pensions.

“We could be hitting $100,000 a year in less than a decade. And, I think that’s way too much,” said Kim.

She’s moved to eliminate these cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).

This year’s increase of .25 percent is less than last year’s increase of about 2.2 percent. The Legislature passed a law in 1995 that allows for the pay raises and ties them to changes in the Consumer Price Index in the Mid-Atlantic states.

The pay raises will boost the paychecks of state leaders in all three branches of government.

Dan Egan, a spokesman for the Department of Administration, says the Gov. Tom Corbett (R), Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley (R) and the Cabinet all will decline the raises yet again.

Corbett will continue to be paid $174,914 next year, which was the governor’s salary when he first took office. Had he accepted the pay increases during the course of his term, his salary would be $187,818 next year, according to the Department of Administration.

“At a time when many working Pennsylvanians haven’t gotten a raise, and perhaps haven’t seen on in several years, the Governor does not feel this is a time for him or his Cabinet to be accepting raises either,” said Egan.

Still, efforts to ban the raises have gained little traction.

Kim said she wants to see Corbett more aggressively call for an end to them.

“If he’s giving (the raises) back, I think he should be pushing the Republicans and the Democrats to do this just because it would go a long way,” said Kim.

Community activist Gene Stilp was at the Capitol Monday with his giant inflatable pig, “Pignelope,” calling for an end to the automatic raises. He also was among the people who blasted lawmakers during the 2005 pay raise scandal, in which legislators approved pay raises in the middle of the night.

“And, so, they should do it in front of the public. They should have a citizens commission that puts forth what the legislators should actually get,” said Stilp.

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