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Pennsylvania Lawmakers to Make More Than $83,800 Next Year

Base pay for lawmakers in the state House and Senate will increase by about $1,800 from the current base salary of $82,000.

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania lawmakers will get a 2.2 percent pay increase on Dec. 1, boosting their salaries to more than $83,000.

Russ Faber, chief clerk of the state Senate, confirmed to PA Independent on Tuesday that lawmakers would receive a 2.165 percent increase in their pay at the start of December, after the Patriot-News reported the increase Tuesday morning.  Legislators’ pay is linked to the consumer price index, or CPI, for the Mid-Atlantic States and is adjusted each December.

With the increase, the base salary for lawmakers in both the state House and state Senate will increase by about $1,800 from the current base salary of $82,000.

The median household income in Pennsylvania is about $50,000.  Unemployment in the state is 8.1 percent.

Faber confirmed that the new salary for President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, will be $130,820.  Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, and Minority Leader Jay Costa, R-Allegheny, will receive $121,418 after Dec. 1.

Members of the state House will be see the same 2.2 percent bump.

With the increase, Speaker of the House Sam Smith, R-Jefferson, will make $130,820 next year, while Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, and Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, will make $121,418.

The Pennsylvania Constitution forbids lawmakers from being able to vote themselves a pay increase during their current term in office, but since the so-called “cost of living adjustment” is automatic and tied to the CPI, that restriction does not apply.

As a result, the 25 members of the state Senate who were not up for re-election this year will still receive the pay bump despite continuing their previous term in office.

Not all members of the General Assembly keep the automatic pay increase.  In recent years, several lawmakers have returned the increase to the state treasury or have given the extra amount to charity.

If all lawmakers accept the pay raise, the increase in pay alone would cost taxpayers more than $450,000 next year.

Only California lawmakers, who receive a base salary of $95,000, made more than their Pennsylvania counterparts in 2012, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

Pennsylvania lawmakers who live more than 50 miles from Harrisburg can also take a $160 per diem for each day of legislative work – which records indicate sometimes includes weekends.  They do not have to provide receipts.

Lawmakers also pay just one percent towards health care benefits, compared to the average of two percent in the private sector.

Eric Epstein, founder of Rock The Capitol, a Harrisburg-based political reform group, said politicians should not be in a position to raise their own pay.  He called for the repeal of the 1995 law that established the automatic annual pay increases.

“Compensation packages need to be pegged to accountability, merit markers and performance milestones,” he said.

This post was updated at 11:20 a.m. to include comments from Eric Epstein and data from NCSL.

Contact Eric Boehm at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter.

— Edited by Kelly Carson, kcarson@watchdog.org

Jim November 22, 2012 at 08:44 PM
2 year term should be all that any POLITICIAN should be allowed to stay in office. Anything longer and you run the risk of corrupt government. Just look at BENSALEM. That 100 dollar tax benifit sure goes a long way NOT! Share some of the CASINO revenue with common folk.
Jim November 22, 2012 at 08:47 PM
And if it is only a 2 year term.........how come we still have the same Senator and State Represenitive and Mayor for the past 16 years or longer. i only know of 16 since I have lived here that long
Jim November 22, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I would vote for you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Jeff Lugar November 22, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Totally agree with Mike L. — there's nothing about a salary that's really newsworthy. It's just to make people agitated because it's more than the average. Just like when the Natalie Munroe deal went down; every story seemed to have her completely irrelevant salary mentioned.
concerned123 April 03, 2013 at 07:30 PM
Let's not forget they get a car,insurance and gas besides great medical and a pension program second to none after just 7 years of service for life. . So that 83 k doesn't sound that great huh ? Sounds pretty good to me, Not to mention they bascially get nothing done and just provide lip service

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