(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania state government officials delayed their annual pay raise last week in the face of a pandemic-induced revenue shortfall.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 2487 on Friday that freezes pay for himself, cabinet officials, legislators and department leaders beginning Dec. 1 with expiration set for Nov. 30, 2021. Deferring the annual cost of living adjustment sailed through the Senate last month as lawmakers contend with how to backfill the estimated $5 billion budget deficit.
According to Ballotpedia, Pennsylvania lawmakers earn the third-highest base pay in the nation at $88,610 annually, behind only California and New York. The governor’s salary is also third-highest, the site reported, at $194,850.
Rep. Frank Ryan, R-Lebanon, sponsored the pay freeze bill last spring, and House lawmakers offered unanimous support during a vote in May. Five months later, he maintains that taking the pay freeze “is absolutely appropriate” given the hardships facing residents and businesses “struggling in this pandemic to make ends meet.”
Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 2487 on Friday that freezes pay for himself, cabinet officials, legislators and department leaders beginning Dec. 1 with expiration set for Nov. 30, 2021.
“More than ever, shared sacrifices are necessary to restore financial stability to our Commonwealth and its citizens,” he said Friday.
The state’s $25.8 billion temporary budget will expire Nov. 30 and, so far, legislators appear far apart on what spending plan will replace it. Wolf and legislative Democrats say legalizing recreational marijuana could net the state approximately $600 million in revenue, though Republicans remain skeptical about the policy’s profitability and see no room for agreement on the issue this year.
Tax increases won’t be on the table, it appears. House GOP spokesman Jason Gottesman told multiple media outlets that “there’s no appetite” for it among members, who hold a strong majority in the lower chamber.
The administration prefers level-funding state agencies, with spokesperson Lyndsay Kensinger telling The Associated Press “it is critical for us to finalize the budget in November to avoid furloughs and any stoppage of critical payments to providers and grantees.”
Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania’s General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.
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