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Corbett freezes pay for cabinet, management

HARRISBURG - Members of Gov. Corbett's cabinet and management employees in the executive branch will not see any increase in their salaries this year.

HARRISBURG - Members of Gov. Corbett's cabinet and management employees in the executive branch will not see any increase in their salaries this year.

Citing the still-sluggish economy, Corbett has imposed a pay freeze on top-level staff members, his spokesman, Kevin Harley, said in an e-mail.

"The economy remains a challenge, and revenue is coming in below estimates," he said.

Harley did not say how many state employees were affected, but under a similar freeze imposed by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2009 and 2010, 13,000 were identified as management-level.

Three percent annual cost-of-living increases for the executive branch were to take effect Sunday. Under a 1995 law, they are automatic for elected officials regardless of the governor's freeze. Nonelected employees of the executive branch, however, are affected.

Corbett said he would keep the 2010 governor's salary of $174,914 and send the roughly $9,000 total annual increase to charity.

Annual 3 percent raises for the more than 1,000 Pennsylvania judges - from the district level to the state Supreme Court - are unaffected by the freeze, as are increases for the row office officials (treasurer, attorney general, and auditor general) and rank-and-file legislators, who now make $82,026, up from $79,623. The four legislative caucus leaders now are paid $118,845 per year, up from $115,364.

A number of lawmakers have said they, too, will reject the raise and send the additional money to charity.

"The majority of legislators have been returning the money to Treasury or giving back to nonprofits," said Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny).

But the extra funds will boost lawmakers' pensions, and they can take a tax write-off for their donations.

"It's not noble to donate other people's money to charity," said Eric Epstein, founder of the government reform group Rock the Capital.

Epstein said he thinks those in Harrisburg who talk about "belt-tightening" and "shared sacrifice" have lost touch with working Pennsylvanians.

"There is a disconnect between what the political elite is preaching and what they are practicing," he said.

Efforts to roll back the law instituting automatic pay raises have failed in the legislature.

Rendell did not take his cost-of-living increase during his last three years and urged his cabinet and senior-level staff to do the same.

The freeze comes on the heels of the bleak midyear budget report issued by Budget Secretary Charles Zogby, projecting a half-billion-dollar deficit heading into the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Under a bill being proposed by State Rep. Scott Perry (R., York) - who has said he will donate his 2012 raise to local fire companies and other needy groups - raises would be suspended whenever revenues fall behind expectations.

Perry has said he views it as a way to tie raises to performance.

Epstein said creating a nonpartisan commission to determine salary levels of elected officials, like the Citizens Compensation Commission in California, would be more fair because it would take the decision out of the hands of those who benefit from pay raises.