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Local lawmakers say they would vote down pay increase

| Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2004

The state legislature recessed early for the year without giving itself a pay raise that could have been as much as 20 percent, and some lawmakers in the county say the measure would not have gotten their vote anyway.

"In my district, people are struggling," state Rep. Fred McIlhattan, R-63rd, said. "They're not receiving pay increases and they're being laid off.

"It's not right for me to ask for a pay raise for myself. My vote would be a no vote."

McIlhattan and state Sen. Don White, R-41st, believe the pay raise debate is a dead issue when the legislature returns for a new session in January.

"It is much to do about nothing," White said of pay-raise discussions. "I never felt it had enough votes.

"I said I would never vote for a pay increase when I ran for office and I won't."

Legislators will still see their salaries go up even though they did not pass a pay raise because of a cost of living allowance increase.

White and McIlhattan say they are more than satisfied with their salaries.

The issue could come up again with lawmakers when the next session gets underway.

Newly elected representative Jeff Pyle, R-60th, said that if it does become an issue in January, he would cast a no vote.

"There are people laid off at Eljer just a block from my home," Pyle said. "There is no way I can justify a pay increase for myself."

The early recess surprised Pyle who noted that the governor and the legislature did not meet often enough with the issues of public transportation and a Pittsburgh economic bailout package on the table.

"As a freshman legislator you have to be rough and ready or be ready to hide," Pyle said of the issues that await him. "I've never hidden from anything."

White said the recently ended session accomplished some good things including providing Pittsburgh with some opportunities that did not penalize commuters and still gave the city some tools to bring back economic vitality.

However, the long-term solution to the state's public transportation system has been put on hold until next year.

"It's too big an issue to rush into," McIlhattan said of the transportation issue. "The stop gap we did was better. We can work on it next year.

"There are ways to fix the problem without increasing taxes and fees."

Added White, "We can give the transit issue a lot more scrutiny in January. There's a lot of fat in the Transit Authority."

White is anxious to take on the issue of property tax reform in the next session.

"There are 19 senators in the west who are all for property tax reform and 31 in the east who aren't seeing a hundred sheriff's sales," White said.

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