Pennsylvania Legislators Relinquish Pay Raise Pennsylvania legislators vote to give up the controversial pay raise they awarded themselves earlier this year.

Pennsylvania Legislators Relinquish Pay Raise

Pennsylvania Legislators Relinquish Pay Raise

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Pennsylvania legislators vote to give up the controversial pay raise they awarded themselves earlier this year.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

The pressure was finally too much, and today the Pennsylvania Legislature gave up the big pay raise it gave itself and members of the state judiciary. The public was not at all happy with that raise. In fact, voters removed a state Supreme Court justice on Election Day despite the fact that the justice had made no public statements in favor of the raise. From member station WITF in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Damon Boughamer reports.

DAMON BOUGHAMER reporting:

A lot of folks were surprised back in July when Pennsylvania lawmakers, in the middle of the night, without public debate, gave themselves pay raises and skipped town without comment. Just as surprising for some is that they actually undid it.

Unidentified Man #1: On the final passage of the bill, the ayes are 197, the nays are one. The majority required by the Constitution, having voted in the affirmative, bill passes finally. Clerk will present the same to the Senate for concurrence.

BOUGHAMER: That vote repealed the bill that had set legislators' base salary at around $81,000. That increase made them the second-highest paid state lawmakers in the country, behind only California's. The dam broke two weeks ago when a primary architect of the hike reversed himself. Senate President pro tempore Robert Jubelirer, a Republican, had faced intense criticism in his conservative rural district.

State Senator ROBERT JUBELIRER (Republican, Pennsylvania): I admit I made a mistake. I apologized for it in my district. I think it was the wrong thing to do now. Hindsight's 20/20. I don't--I'm not shifting the blame to anybody; I accept the responsibility that I was part of that.

BOUGHAMER: The first mea culpa gave way to a stream of others from both Republicans and Democrats who cooperated to pass the pay raise. On the floor of the Pennsylvania House, Minority Leader Bill DeWeese, a Democrat, said the public might have accepted the pay raise if lawmakers had done things differently.

State Representative BILL DeWEESE (Democrat, Pennsylvania; Minority Leader): We should have probably asked for fewer dollars. We should have done it at 3 in the afternoon rather than in the wee hours.

BOUGHAMER: The repeal is a victory for an unusual coalition of left-leaning and right-leaning interest groups and good government advocates, whose antics have been newspaper, television and radio friendly.

Unidentified Man #2: Oink! Oink! Oink! Oink! Oink! Oink! Oink!

BOUGHAMER: Oinking demonstrators took a cue from headline-writers, who gave lawmakers the nickname `Harrisburg Hogs.' And the 25-foot-tall inflatable pig they used as a prop made front pages as it traversed the state.

Although the pay raise is dead, the pig lives on. In fact, it will be on the road again next month, with protesters demanding that lawmakers forego future cost-of-living adjustments. They also want to shrink the Legislature and limit legislative terms. Rallier Patty Noaker(ph) says whether outrage over the pay raise evolves into a broader reform movement will depend on whether activists do more than just talk.

Ms. PATTY NOAKER (Activist): We've been too much, I guess, involved in our own lives to really pay attention to what's been going on in Harrisburg. But something struck the last straw, you know, that broke the camel's back.

BOUGHAMER: Some hope to make more immediate changes by running against incumbent Pennsylvania lawmakers next spring. Several say they will set higher standards. Gary Hornberger, an elected county controller, hopes to unseat his representative in the Republican primary.

Mr. GARY HORNBERGER (County Controller): And I don't think it's necessary for me to get reimbursed for a state vehicle. I won't be seeking reimbursement for mileage. I will be treating my trips to Harrisburg just like any other businessman. And some of the other benefits they have, as well--I don't think they deserve to be compensated or have a benefit package that's any greater than any other worker that works for the state.

BOUGHAMER: Legislators who want to keep their jobs are taking a full-steam-ahead approach. Leaders say now that the pay raise issue is behind them, they will pass property tax reforms and an income tax cut before Christmas. They have a lot of work ahead of them, both at the Capitol and back home in their districts. The last statewide public opinion poll taken before the repeal had the legislators' approval rating at 26 percent. For NPR News, I'm Damon Boughamer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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