Automatic salary increases
for elected officials must end
Imagine a scenario where you could guarantee yourself a pay raise every year, no matter what.
Imagine that it happened automatically, without oversight or question. No matter the success of your business or personal performance for the year, the increase is assured.
Well, if you happen to be among certain elected officials, there's no need to imagine. It's reality for state government officials in Pennsylvania.
It's also the case for elected officials in Lawrence County.
For this year, elected officials in the commonwealth, including legislators, judges and others, are guaranteed a 3 percent pay increase. For Lawrence County elected officials, the pay hike is 3.6 percent.
Officially, these pay boosts are termed cost-of-living increases. That is because Pennsylvania's constitution prohibits elected officials from granting themselves raises. Votes for formal salary increases cannot take effect until after the next election.
But give politicians points for creativity when it comes to adding to their pay. Years ago, folks in Harrisburg came up with a scheme to give themselves automatic cost-of-living increases. This way, they receive annual pay hikes without ever having to vote.
And unless reported by the press, the public isn't even aware of the increases.
The same happens in Lawrence County, where officials copied Harrisburg's pay-raise tactic. So every year, there's more money in elected officials' paychecks.
But over the last couple of years, county officials made it a point to announce they were donating their increases to assorted charities. No doubt that blunted public criticism of the salary hikes during weak economic times when many taxpayers saw no gains in their pay, or worse, lost their jobs.
Such charitable contributions, however, don't tell the full story. If officials are donating only the current year's increase, they receive the prior year's boost as a delayed pay increase. In addition, all raises for state and county officials factor into their taxpayer-subsidized pensions.
All in all, we view these automatic increases as an unseemly process, and one more example of how politicians become detached from the economic realities of those who foot the bill. These raises also help to perpetuate the view of government being self serving, rather than working for the common good.
The solution is simple: The Legislature and county commissioners need to do away with automatic increases. They are not required and can be eliminated as easily as they were created. If politicians believe they are worth the money, they ought to make the case in a more public manner.
- New Castle News