Okay, the pay raise for Pennsylvania legislators (except for the COLA, which will still kick in), judges, and some executive positions has been rescinded.
So, now that the hysteria is over, let’s have a rational discussion about the subject. First, let’s separate the issue into its separate populations. I have no qualms about a pay raise for higher level judges. I’d just like to hear the discussions about it beforehand. Cabinet positions, etc., well, let’s talk about it. Maybe.
Legislators? I wrote this past summer on the changes I would like to see enacted before a substantial raise is approved. My first condition was this:
1) No outside employment. A full time job is a full-time job, even if you do have to reapply for it every two to four years. It should take up most of your time. If you are earning, oh, say, nearly ten times that salary as a bank director while you are working for me “full-time,” I doubt I will have your full attention. Also, all assets go into a blind trust. If they want a federal salary, let’s have federal rules.
Legislative leaders say they would like to earn half of what a federal Congressional elected representative earns. According to this site, the national officials earn $158,100. Before the raise Pennsylvania legislators earned $69,648. However, they also receive not more than $650 a month for a car, up to $128 per day for expenses, and medical insurance that pays for long-term care. Add the car lease into existing salary and it goes up $7800 a year, if someone takes the largest possible amount. The per diem could also add up, depending on how many days the legislature is in session. I am not financially savvy enough to compare federal and state pensions and medical benefits.
However, please note that:
Buffeted by waves of scandal, by 1989 Congress had strictly capped outside income and banned most types of outside business relationships of its members.
Members of Congress cannot represent law clients, serve on corporate boards, or earn more than 15 percent of their government salary from any business venture. As a trade-off, salaries were raised - they are now $141,300 - and the job of federal legislator became unquestionably full time. (Rena Singer, Glen Justice and Ken Dilanian, "OTHER STATES HAVE MOVED TOWARD STRICTER ETHICS RULES," Philadelphia Inquirer March 23, 2000)
In the same article:
About 40 percent of Harrisburg lawmakers report no outside income.
Doesn’t that mean over half the state legislators did receive outside income at that time? If one of the reasons for a pay increase is the number of hours and time away from home required to do the job, well, surely it is too demanding to allow for outside income.
Again, same article:
Lawmakers must list any source of income from the previous year that
produced more than $1,300 annually, and they must list the names of businesses in which they were officer, director, employee or part owner. But they do not have to say how much they earn, what services they perform, or what their businesses sell or do.
Nor do they have to report a word about their spouses' interests. Lawyers and other professionals do not have to describe their clients or areas of specialty.
Today, 83 Pennsylvania lawmakers - 33 percent of the 253 legislators in
Harrisburg - are officers or directors of private businesses. Disclosure records show that legislators have financial interests in more than a dozen types of economic activity. (Ken Dilanian, Rena Singer and Glen Justice, "A CITIZEN LEGISLATURE AT WORK, " Philadelphia Inquirer March 19, 2000)
So over half of the elected officials at that time did earn outside income, but we don’t have any idea how much or from whom. I can see a lot of room for conflict of interest here.
Some of our elected officials are indeed hardworking individuals who do devote more than a full time job to their legislative duties. But not all do. And if the legislature won’t or can’t clean up its own house (and senate), the legislature can hardly expect the public, who, on average, earn considerably less than the legislators, to open their wallets wider and say “dive on in.”
I would be willing to support a substantial increase in legislative pay in return for, among other things, making the full-time job full-time, with set limits on outside income.
(Note: If the rules have changed in the past five years, someone please let me know. This was what I could find on the subject.)