State lawmakers get a 3 percent cost-of-living raise – about $2,400 before taxes -- starting today (Dec. 1), and all of the Lehigh Valley lawmakers reached by Patch said they will either donate their raises to charity or refund them to the state treasury.
The lawmakers’ annual pay – before taxes – will go from the current $79,623.23 to $82,026.11, according to the Pennsylvania Bulletin, which lists legal and rulemaking information.
Lawmakers in leadership positions already make extra money, and the 3 percent increase also applies to those amounts, according to the Bulletin. The extra amounts, including the 3 percent raise, will range from $11,506 to $46,021.
The following is a list of area lawmakers and what they plan to do with their raises:
--Sen. Pat Browne, R-16th, whose district includes Lower Macungie and Alburtis. He’s donating his raise to charity, just as he did last year, according to Ellen Kern, his chief of staff.
--Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24th, whose district represents Macungie. He too prefers donating to charities instead of refunding to the treasury. He said giving it back to the state increases processing costs. He also noted that he recently gave $300 to a group that provided Thanksgiving meals to the needy and brought some items to Toys for Tots.
--Rep. Doug Reichley, R-134th, whose district includes Lower Macungie, Macungie and Alburtis. He will get the raise as a lawmaker for only a month. That’s because in January he will be sworn in as a Lehigh County judge. He said he plans to donate December’s raise to Lehigh County Mental Health/Mental Retardation Services (in the past he has donated his raise to the Lehigh County and Berks County MH/MR units). He noted that judges also will be getting a 3 percent raise and that he plans to donate that as well. Citing ethical reasons, he declined to say to which organizations he will donate that raise.
--Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-18th. She is donating to Lehigh Valley charities – “what she’s done every year,” said chief of staff Stephen DeFrank. He described why she prefers donating rather than refunding to the state treasury: “When I donate to charities at home, my money stays at home.”
--Rep. Justin Simmons, R-131st. “In these financially difficult times for families, I will not be accepting” the raise, he said in a statement read by an aide. “I plan to return it” to the treasury.
--Rep. Joe Brennan, D-133rd. As in the past, he will be donating the money to charities, he said. Each month, Brennan said, he and his wife sit down and select a charity for a donation. Lawmakers are paid once a month.
--Rep. Joe Emrick, R-137th. As he did last year, he said, he plans to give back his raise to the state. He said he writes a personal check to the state each month.
--Rep. Marcia Hahn, R-138th. She said she will return her raise to the state treasury, as she has done previously.
--Rep. Julie Harhart, R.183rd. As in the past, she said, she plans to donate her raise to charities of her choice.
--Rep. Gary Day, R-187th. He made a promise when elected to give back his raises to the state, according to Jennifer Ortiz, an aide to Day. “He writes a check back to the state,” she said.
Two area lawmakers – Rep. Steve Samuelson, R-135th, and Rep. Bob Freeman, D-136th --could not be reached on Wednesday.
The Pennsylvania Bulletin, in an item published Nov. 26, explains how the 3 percent raise is calculated: It is based on the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland for the period Nov. 1, 2010 through Oct. 31, 2011. The raise is part of the Public Official Compensation Law (Act 72 of 2005).