HARRISBURG It's that time of the year again, with Pennsylvania legislators, judges and top members of the Corbett administration set to receive a bump in pay.
Lawmakers are scheduled to receive annual cost-of-living increases next week, while Gov. Corbett and his cabinet, as well as judges, will receive theirs Jan. 1 - unless they decline them. Corbett, for instance, has turned down the increase every year since taking office in January 2011, and has directed his cabinet to do the same.
The governor will do so again this year, spokesman Jay Pagni said, leaving his salary at $174,914. That is what Pennsylvania's governor earned in 2010, rather than the $187,818 the job could pay him come Jan. 1.
Pagni said Corbett believed rejecting the cost-of-living increase was "appropriate . . . given the thousands of Pennsylvanians who haven't seen pay raises" - in some cases in years.
For 2014, the increase is 0.3 percent, the smallest it has been in the last decade.
The increase is set by the U.S. Department of Labor, and reflects the percentage change in the consumer price index in the mid-Atlantic region, said Dan Egan, spokesman for the state Office of Administration.
Legislators' pay currently ranges from $83,801 for a rank-and-file member to $130,820 for the top leaders. Next week, those figures will jump to $84,012 and $131,149.
Judges' salaries come Jan. 1 will range from $86,899 for district judges to $206,032 for the chief justice. The other justices will earn $200,205, Superior Court and Commonwealth Court judges between $188,903 and $194,728, Common Pleas Court judges between $173,791 and $177,287, and Philadelphia Municipal Court judges from $169,769 to $172,392.
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts does not track if or how many judges forgo their cost-of-living increases.
No one in the legislature keeps such a list, either, although several legislators have made it a policy to reject the raise by either returning the additional money to state coffers or sending it to charity.
Still, good-government groups note that even when they forgo the cost-of-living increases, which they have been receiving since a state law passed in 1995, they still benefit. The extra money will boost their pensions, and they can claim a tax write-off if they donate the money to charity.
Supporters say recipients still pay taxes on the increased salaries, regardless of whether they keep them. That is because those officials are required to be paid their full salaries; if they decide to return the additional money, they do so through payroll deductions.