There’s no doubt who’s on the top of Santa’s 2012 Naughty List. On December 1st , Pennsylvania Senators and Representatives just helped themselves to yet another automatic pay raise of 2.2%, hiking base salary to $83,802. California legislators’ make $95,000. California lawmakers are the ONLY state politicians who make more than ours according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. California’s population is over 38 million; Pennsylvania’s population is under 13 million.
While education is slashed and vital public services languish on austerity, our state lawmakers haven’t missed pocketing a Christmas present since 1995 when they passed the law guaranteeing themselves annual (cost-of-living) raises. In 1995 Pennsylvania legislators’ base salary was $47,000. This 2012 Christmas gift gives legislators a 75% pay increase since 1995 in a state where the median household income is about $50,000.
While Forks median household income is higher, our Township faces tough budget choices in 2013. Forks Treasurer, Supervisor Bob Egolf, told the Express Times he expects “modest” property tax increases each of the next several years for needed road repairs and sewer upgrades. The Township hasn’t seen a tax increase in five years, but when infrastructure ages, expenses accumulate. At least Forks residents will know their taxes are going to necessary repairs and upgrades, not a Harrisburg boondoggle.
Christmas 2011 Harrisburg politicians promptly pocketed a 3% raise while Pennsylvania unemployment was high and the Commonwealth faced a whopping budget deficit. Community First called upon Governor Tom Corbett to veto the raises. He’d publicly opposed them, but has done nothing to stop them. Asked what he did with his automatic raise, Community First was told he’d donated it to charity. What charity? Toys For Tots! In a year when education funding was obliterated, Corbett’s priority was toys not schools. Some legislators claim to refuse the raises also donating to charities. Do they then get a charitable deduction for donating our tax money?
With overcrowded classrooms, teachers and support staff terminated, and services lost to mentally ill, the disabled, battered women, public health and safety, these raises continue unabated. Pennsylvania lawmakers living more than 50 miles from Harrisburg (like Rep. Joe Emrick and Senator Bob Mensch), can take a $160 per diem for each day of legislative work including weekends when required. No receipts need to be provided and parking is free. Handsome health care benefits also come to state legislators compared to those in the private sector.
Retired state employees haven’t seen a raise since 2002. Everyone’s tightening their belts except the Republican-dominated Harrisburg Legislature. Here in Forks there’s a need to take care of our roads and infrastructure, but how many residents got $5,000 in raises these last two years without asking? Have Joe Emrick and Bob Mensch done anything about stopping the Christmas increases? Do they deserve lumps of Pennsylvania coal in their stockings this year? If you put Community First, you don’t end up on Santa’s Naughty List.
Lilly Gioia and C. David Howell, Community First Editors