Share This Page

Corbett, others in top Pa. posts to decline raises

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 12:24 a.m.

State leaders will get a 2.2 percent raise this year, though Gov. Tom Corbett and 38 members of his executive branch say they will decline the money.

The raises range from about $1,800 for state House representatives to nearly $4,500 for the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

The raises go into effect between December and January for all state judges, lawmakers, row officers and executive branch leaders as part of a 17-year-old law to increase salaries at the rate of inflation — known as cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs.

“Every year we ask the governor how he wants to approach it, and for the past two years, he's said, I'm going to decline these COLAs. And what he says to the folks underneath him is: ‘I'm doing this, follow my example and we're all going to do the same,'” said Dan Egan, spokesman with the Office of Administration. “It's a combination of being asked and being told.”

Spokespeople for the House Republicans and for the House and Senate Democrats said it is too early to tell which members of their caucuses will deal with the raise. Spokesmen for Republican Senate leaders Joe Scarnati and Dominic Pileggi said those senators would give the money to charity, but that they couldn't speak for other Senate Republicans.

Although court decisions have affirmed the legality of COLAs, some believe they violate the state constitution, which calls for “fixed” salaries, said Barry Kauffman, executive director of the Harrisburg reform group Common Cause of Pennsylvania. Lawmakers should have to vote any time they change their salaries, he said.

“As taxpayers see other programs cut and programs that are important to them, and taxes going up in certain ways, I think it'll be increasingly difficult for legislators to justify these huge increases in salary,” Kauffman said.

State House representatives are at the bottom of the salary scale for state leaders, with their base salary rising to $83,801.88, or nearly $7,000 per month. At the top are Supreme Court justices, who will make nearly $200,000 a year starting Jan. 1. The chief justice will make $205,415 annually, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

A 1995 state law adjusts the salaries each year to reflect changes during the previous 12 months in the Consumer Price Index for urban consumers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. Executive branch officials are giving their COLAs back from all three years of Corbett's term so far; the inflationary adjustments were 1.7 percent and 3 percent the first two years, according to Egan.

Those officials have the increases automatically deducted from their paychecks for refunds to the state treasury, Egan said. State legislators don't have that option and have to write checks or give the money to libraries, fire departments or other charities, officials said.

Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or tpuko@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.