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Pa. lawmakers may see salary hikes

November 20, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Lawmakers, judges, district justices and some top state executives might be in for double-digit raises costing taxpayers $16 million, depending on how the Pennsylvania General Assembly votes this weekend.

Under one proposal, according to state Rep. Pat Fleagle, R-Waynesboro, the salaries of legislators, judges and Gov. Ed Rendell's department secretaries would be tied to salaries for comparable federal offices.

Raises would range from 10 percent to nearly 22 percent.

Representatives such as Fleagle and state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Waynesboro, would see their salaries increase from $66,203.55 to $79,050, or 19.4 percent.

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That would represent half of what members of the U.S. Congress earn and does not include such state-paid fringe benefits as car allowance, postage, per-diem pay while the legislature is in session, and money to hire staff and run district offices.

Fleagle said Friday he had not discussed the proposed salary increases with his Franklin County colleagues.

"I knew there was talk of pay raises," he said.

Fleagle declined to say how he would vote if the issue came up.

"I'm willing to look at anything they propose," he said. "They need to pay good people good wages, but that's the rub. What are good wages?"

Fleagle said he could "get by on what he makes now," but questioned whether the legislators' current salary is high enough for representatives who live in expensive urban areas.

"There's much turmoil over what's fair," he said.

Freshmen legislators make as much as veteran lawmakers who chair committees, he said.

Messages left with Punt's Harrisburg office Thursday and Friday were not returned.

The state's 421 county Common Pleas judges would get a raise of $21,317, or 17 percent, from $124,135 to $145,452 under the proposal. Their new salary would be equal to that of a federal magistrate judge.

According to Arthur Heinze, spokesman for the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts near Mechanicsburg, Pa., the state has 555 district justices. They currently earn $61,142.04. The proposal calls for a $6,000 raise, or nearly 10 percent, for district justices.

The legislature passed a bill in 1995 that added a cost-of-living clause to district justice salaries, District Justice Larry Pentz said Friday.

It the proposed pay increases go through, it would be the first increase over his base salary since then, he said.

"We used to get raises every five or six years," he said.

The state's Supreme Court justices, would get a raise of $24,664, or 17 percent, from $142,936 to $167,600. That would match the salary of a U.S. Court of Appeals judge.

The executive branch's 18 department heads earn between $103,980 and $115,533. If the proposal passes, they would enjoy raises that would take their salaries within 72 percent to 80 percent of those earned by federal department secretaries.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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