HARRISBURG, Pa. — Christmas won't come until the end of the month, but Pennsylvania legislators woke up on the first morning of December to find an early present under the tree.
Back after taking 2020 off, state lawmakers' automatic pay raise went into effect December 1. For rank-and-file State House and Senate members, their base pay will increase $5,097, to an annual salary of $95,432.
Lawmakers in caucus leadership positions, like committee chairs, will make as much as $108,819 a year, while the top two members of the majority Republican Party, Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler, will make a base salary of $148,976.
The annual pay bump is tied to a 1995 state law which connects salaries for legislators, judges, and high-ranking members of the governor's office to the annual rate of inflation as set by the U.S. Depatment of Labor's Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers for Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.
In 2021, that means a pay increase of a record-high 5.64 percent, and not everyone is on board.
"It has a total impact of about $20 million [for all state employees], and so what I wanted to do was show that the commonwealth is in pretty serious financial distress," said State Representative Frank Ryan.
Rep. Ryan (R-Lebanon), has been sounding the alarm about a pending deficit in Pennsylvania, and was hoping to pause the pay increase for another year. He authored the law which passed in 2020, freezing pay bumps during the pandemic. He tried doing it again in 2021, and his bill cleared the House State Government Committee by a unanimous 25-0 vote. However, it was never brought to a vote for the full State House..
"I think it would've passed unanimously, but I think our leadership team wanted to see what was going to be the grand scheme," Ryan said. "Where does this end and how do we get government spending under control?"
FOX43 reached out to House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff's office, who did not respond to requests for comment asking why.
Pennsylvania's 253-person legislature is the largest full-time body in the nation. Its base salary ranks third in the country behind only California ($114,877) and New York ($110,000).
Commonwealth judges and member's of the governor's office will see their pay increase on January 1. Governor Tom Wolf will see his annual salary increase to $213,000. He has donated his full salary since taking office in 2015.
Others plan on donating their pay increases as well. Cutler has donated his to charity in the past. Ryan says he plans on writing a check to the state treasury.