THE OCCUPY Wall Street movement is protesting economic inequality, high unemployment and greed.
In light of a cost-of-living pay increase that Pennsylvania lawmakers will soon see in their paychecks, we'd say it's about time to Occupy Harrisburg.
This week, 253 state lawmakers will see a bump of over 3 percent in their paychecks, an automatic cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) tied to the Consumer Price Index to which lawmakers have been entitled since 1995.
In case you are too young to remember, back in the olden days of 1995 -Clinton was president, and most of us had landline phones-salaries often rose to reflect the higher cost of living.
(We'll pause here so that you can laugh hysterically at the concept of pay increases tied to inflation . . . or, for that matter, the concept of salaries. )
So, now, the fourth-highest paid legislature in the country - the raise brings their average salary to $80,000 - will be taking home more of our money. The only solace to take from this is that there are three state legislatures with higher salaries than ours: California, Michigan and New York.
It's time someone rewrote the law governing these salaries. Consider this:
* Salary Commission: Legislators should not set their own salaries. But automatic raises hide pay hikes from public scrutiny.
A "compensation commission," like the one created by 19 states to help set salaries of elected officials, could avoid both of these pitfalls. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, commissions operate differently depending on the state, but most have members appointed to fixed terms by elected officials. Some commissions have direct authority to raise or lower salaries, others make recommendations for officials to approve or to be ratified by voters.
Outcomes have varied, too. Some commissions have lowered compensation, others have raised it. The important point: There's a public process where issues like comparable private sector pay, and the demands of the job, are debated.
Lawmaker salaries should also be tied to fairer indexes, such as:
* No lawmaker should make more than the state's median income of $49,501.
* Lawmakers' salaries should follow the path of the general public's incomes. Since 2008, our salaries have dropped 9.9 percent. * Tie salary ups and downs to the state budget. This year, the completed state budget was cut 3 percent over the previous year. Lawmakers' salaries should follow suit.
* Gov. Corbett says that he may donate his salary hike to charity because people can't "opt out" of pay hikes. (That should be fixed.) This is the "false halo" effect. Since pensions are based on income, the employee gets to make a noble gesture and get financially rewarded in the end anyway.