With Pennsylvania facing a projected $500 million state budget deficit, state legislators should follow the administration's lead and return their cost-of-living adjustment to the general fund, rather than keeping it themselves or donating it to charity.
This month, Gov. Tom Corbett told the approximately 13,000 managers and cabinet officials under his control that they are to return the 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment that began this month to the state treasury.
It is the fourth consecutive year that state management-level employees have not received a cost-of-living adjustment, PA Independent reports.
Under Act 51 of 1995, state legislators, executive branch officials and judges automatically are given a cost-of-living adjustment annually based on the inflation rate in Philadelphia, unless the General Assembly votes to block the increase.
That didn't happen last year, so the COLA automatically went into effect Dec. 1 for senators and representatives and Jan. 1 for everyone else. And in a somewhat perverse situation, officials and judges cannot refuse the extra money. It automatically is added to their checks, and recipients pay taxes based on the higher amount.
The increase also ultimately will raise their pension benefits.
While we'd like to see this process change, senators and representatives can make a show of good faith to voters by returning new money in their checks to the general fund. Then, at least, taxpayers will get some of their dollars back.
This does not mean legislators should interpret "giving the raises back" as selecting the nonprofit charity of their choice. That has occurred in the past.
Legislators should also move to repeal the automatic provisions of Act 51 of 1995 so that floor votes are required before a cost-of-living increase can take effect, especially in troubled economic times.
At a time when the state is looking to make more cuts, elected officials and top managers should not be receiving increases in their pay.