Raises to soothe inflation pain for Pa. lawmakers

November 27, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Pennsylvania's 253 full-time legislators will receive their annual cost-of-living salary increases on Saturday, pushing their annual pay to more than $76,000.

The adjustment of 3.5 percent, or at least $2,550, is designed to soothe the sting of inflation for top policy makers, the Associated Press reported Monday.

"It fluctuates greatly, and this is the largest one I've ever seen," said state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland.

The increase - put into law in 1995 - is based on an index, Kauffman said.

"It is adjusted to the consumer (price) index. ... It is based on the rate of inflation," said state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin/Adams.

Last year's increase was 2 percent.

State Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, said he was more supportive of last year's amount than the 3.5 percent. The index is tied to conditions in Philadelphia, he said.


Rock, whose district includes Waynesboro and Greencastle, Pa., said he would prefer that future salary adjustments be part of a vote.

"This is a really touchy situation, (but) ... it's not tied to the pay raise at all," Rock said, referring to the 2005 controversy when on July 7, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed increases of 16 percent to 34 percent of base pay depending on position.

Those increases were later repealed, but many veteran lawmakers lost re-election bids.

Rock touted reform when he ran his first Pennsylvania House of Representatives campaign in 2006. He denied Patrick E. Fleagle re-election to the seat Fleagle held for 18 years.

Pennsylvania lawmakers rank as the fourth highest-paid legislators in the nation, trailing California ($113,098), Michigan ($79,650), and New York ($79,500), according to the latest information available from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Top executive branch officials also will get raises with the latest adjustment. Gov. Ed Rendell's salary will rise to more than $170,000.

Pennsylvania's 1,000 judges are expected to get similar raises in January.

This year's adjustment will boost the salaries of the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore to $118,896 each. The salary of a rank-and-file legislator will increase by $2,550 to $76,163, and that excludes the cost of legislative perks that can boost total compensation to twice that much.

Those perks include office space and staffs in the Capitol complex and legislators' home districts, as well as a generous pension fund that guarantees vested members state subsidized health care benefits for life. House members receive fully paid health care coverage, including long-term care insurance, while senators, their employees and retired senators pay a portion of the premium.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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