On July 7, Pennsylvania lawmakers, including West Chester’s State Rep. Elinor Z. Taylor, voted to give themselves a pay raise, which has drawn strong reactions from students, local politicians and other Pennsylvania residents. Pennsylvania’s lawmakers now rank second in the nation in terms of base pay, and their base pay has risen 16 percent because of the raise, according to www.paissues.net. Politicians, as well as voters, are divided over the pay raise.State Rep. Carole Rubley, R-157th, of Tredyffrin, told the Daily Local News in August that people in her district have contacted her to thank her for voting against the pay raise. “I just didn’t think (the raise) was appropriate,” she told the Daily Local News last month.
Other politicians have defended the pay raise. Taylor, who’s district includes the townships of East Goshen, East Bradford, West Goshen and the Borough of West Chester, explained her reasons for voting for the pay raise. “I think it was a fair raise for leaders who serve the people,” Taylor said. She also acknowledged that the salary of a state representative is only half of what a congressperson earns.
Taylor has used her pay raise to give money to organizations throughout the area. She gave $10,000 to the Chester County Foundation, and the organization cut checks for 10 groups in the area, including fire companies, West Chester Area Day Care Center, the VFW host in West Chester, and other organizations. “I was happy to give the money back to the community,” Taylor said. She went on to say that the raise almost happened in Nov. 2004, but it was postponed because of opposition from Gov. Ed Rendell.
Pennsylvania residents reacted strongly to the pay raise. “If the pay raise leads to a raise in the state’s minimum wage, which historicallyit has, then I’m alright with it,” said Matt Connell, a senior who lives in West Chester and works for theChester County Historical Society.
“If a raise in minimum wage doesn’t happen, then it’s one more sign of the government’s fiscal irresponsibility.” Senior Leo Luciani believes the pay raise is unjustifiable because Pennsylvania is facing economicproblems. “If the Commonwealthis in a state of bankruptcy, lawmakers should try to alleviate that bankruptcy,” Luciani said. “If the state is hurting for money, why would they give themselves more money?”
Frustration and anger over the pay raise has also sparked a movement aimed at drawing awareness about the raise and launching campaigns against politicians that voted for the raise. During the mid-term elections in 2006, Operation Clean Sweep, which is a non-partisan group, wants to defeat the politicians that voted for the pay raise.
“The current members of the General Assembly have slapped taxpayers in the face by awarding themselves a huge pay increase,” the organization’s website, www.pacleansweep.com, says.
If Pennsylvania residents are concerned about the pay raise, they should contact their local representative and talk about the issue.