Our state lawmakers, judges and executive branch officials are getting another pay raise. It’s automatic based on a law enacted — by our state legislators — based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The only way the raise can be curtailed is through legislative action ... a laughable notion indeed.
Starting today, lawmakers will see their paychecks increase 1.6 percent to an annual $88,610. In case you’re keeping track, Pennsylvania’s lawmakers are the second-highest paid in the country.
It’s a good gig. There’s also per diems, travel expenses and pensions to go with the job, all of which are paid by us.
Did you get a 1.6 percent pay raise this year? Since 1995 — the year the law was enacted — the increase has been more than 3 percent five times. Only twice in those 23 years was no raise given, due to the CPI experiencing no change, or negative change.
Again, these increases are automatic.
So, who is getting what now?
Rank-and-file lawmakers will collect an annual salary of $88,610. House and Senate leaders will also see increases with the House speaker and president pro tempore salaries set at $138,327. Salaries for caucus officers — of which state Rep. Kurt Masser and state Sen. John Gordner are for the Republicans — range between $101,040 and $128,385.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the $88,610 base salary is more than double the average base salary for 41 other states.
Judges will also see a generous increase in their salaries. Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Saylor will see his salary grow $3,400 to $217,000. Gov. Tom Wolf will earn $198,000, though he has donated his salary to charity each year he’s been in office. The lieutenant governor’s salary increased to $166,300.
County judges will see their salaries increase to $183,000. Salaries for the statewide elected row offices will bump to $164,700. Cabinet salaries are around $158,400.
All of these numbers are public and have been published in newspapers across the commonwealth.
So why do so few complain about this bloated state government and absurd salary structure? Are Pennsylvanians ill informed?
I’ve written about these salaries, and the bloated Legislature, for more than a decade.
California, which is the only state that pays its legislators more than Pennsylvania, has a population of just under 40 million, yet it employs 120 state legislators. Texas boasts a population of 28 million, yet has but 181 legislators.
Pennsylvania’s dwindling population is under 13 million. How many legislators do we pay? Try 253. That’s 253 lawmakers in a state with just 67 counties.
When it came time to really take on the size of the Legislature, lawmakers did nothing this year, thus ensuring any new move to reduce its size will basically mean starting from scratch.
There are plenty of Pennsylvanians who will see no salary increase this year, and saw no salary increase last year, or the year prior. Given the number of days a year the Legislature is actually in session, it’s time Pennsylvanians become a little more aware of which elected officials are taking home what in terms of taxpayer-funded salaries and perks.
It’s our money.