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Your State Lawmaker's Salary: $83,800

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

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 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.

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

Joe Sommers December 01, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Tanya.. I think alot of voters forgot that Rep Simmons gives up the raise and that he doesnt take per diems or a pension. Nice call bringing that to the forefront. Rep Simmons should be commended for his sacrifices. This proves that he leads by example at a time when the State has budgetary issues. Rep Simmons deserves our support but also our utmost respect for making sacrifices that most would not . Upper Saucon Joe.
Ron Beitler December 01, 2012 at 05:32 PM
There are some states with "volunteer" unpaid vs. our setup of "professional" paid full time legislators. For example New Hampshire state reps and senators are unpaid. Now would this work in PA? I'm not sure. One of the main reasons is the size of our state. Can you physically be in Harrisburg as much as you NEED to be while still holding a full time job? There is also argument we wouldn't get as good quality of candidates without the pay? Many who serve do take pay cuts though to do so... If we think we should pay our elected officials I do think it should be more in line with the overall median personal income for the state. Right now, the salary is far above that. You should be able to live comfortably, yes....but there should be some level of sacrifice made? I don't really know what I think the answer is though I have some opinions...but it's definitely a philosophical question I've always been interested in. To play devils advocate.. here is an article that overviews some of the issues a volunteer legislature faces. http://www.nmpolitics.net/index/2011/09/we-need-to-pay-our-legislators/
Ron Beitler December 01, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Got me thinking so much I decided to riff on this a little more over on my blog. More I think about it, paying lawmakers the median household income for their district makes sense. http://www.ronbeitler.com/2012/12/01/pa-lawmakers-should-make-median-personal-income-of-district-they-serve/
Gramma24 December 02, 2012 at 10:46 PM
still wouldn't put a nickel in his tin cup if he was sitting on the corner of Fairmount and Main. Let him get a real job.
Joe Sommers December 02, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Hey Gramma 24....Sour grapes make lousy wine. Your rant is a joke. Rep.Simmons has helped hundreds of constiuents in his tenure as State Representative.which is why his voter base has grown and why he beat the Obama machine in this past election. Nothing you say or do will stop his progression in his political career..Dont think he will be sitting on any street corners anytime soon either, Suck it up Gramma ...Your irrelevant.

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