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Lawmaker's bill calls for pay-raise repeal

| Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005

HARRISBURG -- A state representative from Lancaster County is seeking cosponsors for his bill to repeal the legislative pay raise.

Republican Rep. Tom Creighton's bill -- HB 1945 -- would cut lawmakers' base salary to $69,647, the salary in place before the July 7 pay hike legislators approved for themselves.

"We're back to ground zero," Creighton said Tuesday.

The proposed bill is a response to widespread voter outrage.

The measure, which is still being finalized, would negate the legislation that hiked lawmakers' salaries by 16 to 34 percent and also boosted salaries for top state officials and judges. At least two area lawmakers -- Rep. Mike Turzai, R-McCandless, and Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry -- are cosponsoring the repeal bill.

Asked if Creighton's bill will be dead on arrival, Stephen Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Sam Smith, R-Punxsutawney, said, "Nothing is DOA, but our main focus will be to continue what we've been working on since the beginning of the year: creating a better jobs climate and reducing the tax burden on our taxpayers."

With the pay raise, most lawmakers are paid $85,103 or $89,155 annually, depending on their rank. Some rank-and-file members without committee chairmanships or subcommittee chairmanships get $81,050.

About half of the General Assembly is taking the money now rather than waiting until after the next election. Creighton's bill would repeal language enabling lawmakers to take the money now via so-called unvouchered expenses.

It's unclear whether money already collected as by some legislators would have to be returned to taxpayers if the raise is repealed, Creighton said. "I'd suspect they wouldn't have to," he said.

Creighton voted for the pay hike and later asked his constituents to forgive him.

Turzai, who voted against the pay hike, said, "We should repeal the pay raise and focus instead on making Pennsylvania more competitive" to keep and attract business.

Asked if the bill has a chance, Metcalfe, who also voted against the pay raise, said, "There's no chance if no one introduces anything."

The full list of cosponsors wasn't available. Creighton issued a letter seeking support from his colleagues Monday. It goes to the printer Friday.

Creighton's bill would continue automatic cost-of living increases for legislators, which were put in place in 1995.

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