PA lawmakers are some of the highest paid in the country and now they’re getting a raise? Wait, what?

November 18 – Pennsylvania lawmakers, judges and executive branch employees will see a 5.6% raise in 2022. It’s the biggest pay raise they’ve had in 30 years.

And are you ready for this? It’s tied to the economy.

It’s based on existing law that was passed years ago going back to the old Midnight Pay Raise scandal and Operation Clean Sweep.

Instead of voting on raises every year, PA lawmakers enacted legislation that tied their pay to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) based on the mid-Atlantic urban area.

Since we’re seeing rising inflation, their pay goes up.

It sounds fictional, but it’s really, really not.

And this is for lawmakers who start out at $95K a year.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed this pay raise this morning during the Big Talk on First News. 

Barkdoll said, “To add insult to injury, this of course also affects the per diems, they will go up in tandem. It also will increase all of their retirement benefits across the board. This will go in effect for December 1 for some of these employees. The rest it will go into effect January 1. This will cost the state a lot of money in 2022.”

Jansen pointed out, “So how the rest of us, oh, you’re getting more, no most of us aren’t getting a pay raise and even those of us who did get a pay raise doesn’t come anywhere close to the nearly 6% rise of inflation but because of this decision because they got in trouble for voting themselves a huge pay raise so let’s tie it to something we don’t have any control over without any forethought of how damaging this could be in a situation like this. It’s maddening. How can we count on them to pushback and fight back on these horrible policies at the federal level, at the state level that are helping things to get worse in terms of prices of stuff when they easily get covered by it? They have more than enough money to make up for the inflation. They can afford it. We can’t. I hate when lawmakers are treated differently than the rest of us and this is another case of that in terms of what I’m talking about, the policies that affect inflation.”

Barkdoll said, “Arguably they benefit from these inflationary problems at the state and the federal level. Remember, these are not low salaries. Your rank-and-file starting lawmaker in Pennsylvania, their salary is now over $95,000. If they’re in leadership, they’re pushing $150,000. That does not count the per diems, the Cadillac medical benefits, the long-term care, the pension benefits and this raise all factors into all that, too, so it’s not just their base salary, it spreads into all these other benefit areas. Of course it also affects the judges, the governor, the cabinet level officials. This is a problem. When you see this CPI spiking the way it is, Social Security is going to get 6% come January, there are all sorts of pay at the public and private sector level that are tied to those indexes and this thing is going to keep causing pain. Just watch when you see local government. They’re going to try to follow this as well. School districts when contracts are up for renewal. This is going to be pain felt across the board at all levels.”

Ryan quipped, “Now come on. You know that our state lawmakers work very hard. They get their two weeks of vacation a year like the rest of us. They’re in there Monday to Friday. They’re in their seats every, single day working tirelessly. Oh, wait a second, there’s the recess and the summer recess. How many days do they actually do work?”

“Not many,” Barkdoll confirmed. “They’re average annual session days are somewhere around 45 to 50 days a year. Now again, you talk to them, they’ll say well we’re in all these other meetings and we’re doing constituent services. I’ve never totally bought that. We have one of the highest paid legislatures in the United States, by the way, and now with this new increase, that will move them even closer to the top. Whether you see any pushback on this remains to be seen. In the past when there have been these big raises, some of the lawmakers have come out and said we’re going to return the money to the state treasury. We’re going to donate it to local charities. Again, this news just came out yesterday. It remains to be seen how many, if any, lawmakers around the state might try to give the money back or at least return it to local charities.”

Jansen added, “These are $5,000 to $12,000 extra amount that they’re going to get and that’s per year going forward. Does it ever come down when inflation goes down?”

“Yeah, do they take a haircut at all?” Ryan laughed.

“No,” Barkdoll said, “In theory you can have negative CPI and I do think last year or the year before CPI was really, really low. It was under 1% and they did waive the raise for that year, but now of course in this year, 5.6%, barring them voting to reject it, they’re all going to accept this money.”

Jansen said, “They could vote to reject it. They could vote to reject this.”

Barkdoll said, “My understanding based on that precedent from a few years ago where they declined the sub-1% CPI raise, to me that’s a precedent that would allow them to do this and to the extent that this raise is based on legislation, they can giveth and taketh away as the saying goes. They certainly would have the ability to pass legislation that would reform this automatic pay raise that’s tied to the CPI for the mid-Atlantic urban areas. They absolutely would have that ability.”