The people who make the laws of this state deserve a pay raise every once in a while, right? Of course they do, because there has to be some incentive for the best and brightest of our state to run for office and govern the people. Legislators are, without a doubt, some of the most important individuals employed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and their pay deserves to be on par with the pay of other important workers in the state.On Thursday, July 7, 2005, at 2 a.m., the PA State Legislature voted to give themselves a 16 percent pay raise, angering citizens across the commonwealth. But are the people really angry about the pay raise or are they angry that it was voted on in the middle of the night? They’re angry about the pay raise. They feel like the money is coming out of their pockets because their tax dollars are paying for it.
This is true; we are all paying for the new raise. However, the PA State Legislature hasn’t had a raise in ten years. The last time lawmakers got a raise was in 1995, when the base salary was increased to $70,000 a year, according to the Centre Daily Times. The July 7 pay increase will bring that $70,000 to $81,200. Since 1995, inflation has lowered the value of the dollar. According to the inflation calculator on www.westegg.com, $70,000 in 1995 is equivalent to $87,091.88 in2005. One could say that legislators have been taking a large pay cut every year for the past ten years. To those still not convinced, I offer the following two arguments.
The Pennsylvania state legislature has 253 members: 203 state representatives, and 50 state senators. Two hundred and fifty-three multiplied by $81,200 equals $20,543,600. According to the Governor’s Office of the Budget, Pennsylvania’s state budget for the 2005-06 fiscal year is $24.3 billion. The legislative salaries comprise less than one-half of one-half of one-half of one percent of the total state budget. If tax dollars are peoples’ key concern, perhaps they shouldn’t be protesting the $20 million used to pay our lawmakers, but rather start protesting things like a $64.8 million appropriation in this year’s budget to build and maintain forestry camps. Or over $136 million for “general government operations of the department of revenue,” from the PA State Budget for 2005-06.
Most citizens are used to their typical three percent cost of living adjustment (COLA). Those citizens should be thrilled that our lawmakers are not used to such COLAs. If the $70,000 that legislators started making every year since 1995 was adjusted by three percent every year, each of them would be earning $94,074.15 this year. That’s $12,874.15 more than how much they just voted to raise their pay. This is the classic choice lottery jackpot winners: whether to take the annuity over time and get paid more, or the smaller lump sum in cash.
Imagine this scenario: whatever you make this year, that is what you’ll make every year for the next ten years. Then, at the end of those ten years, when you’re dirt poor because you can’t afford anything because the buying power of your salary has been weakened by ten years of steadily rising prices of gas, food, cars, insurance, college and taxes and services, and basic necessities. Then, when you ask for a decent raise to catch up, everyone you ask will laugh in your face for asking for such a large raise.
If you had the ability to give yourself a raise, not just because you wanted more money, but because you truly believed you deserved it, wouldn’t you? If you were handed a blank check and a pen, would you sign for nothing or everything? In this answer lies the truth.
Jeff Simon is a first year student majoring in communications.