It's only money
Gov. Tom Corbett doubts that the state government will have enough money to help thousands gain access to health care.
Neither he nor state legislators gave a second thought, however, to another facet of increased state spending that was announced Monday at roughly the same time that Mr. Corbett spoke at the Pennsylvania Press Club.
Under state law, lawmakers, judges at all levels and executive branch employees automatically will receive 2.2 percent pay raises, without a word of deliberation about whether the government can afford it. (To his credit, as he has since taking office, Mr. Corbett will refuse the raise and keep his salary at $174,914, which was in effect when he took office, rather than the $187,192 authorized by the law.)
The raises, by law, are tied to the Consumer Price Index for urban consumers in the Mid-Atlantic states, even though many lawmakers - say the representative from Coudersport, Potter County - aren't urban consumers.
Increases are substantial. Rank-and-file lawmakers' pay will increase $1,776 to a base of $83,802, beginning Dec. 1. That is in addition to their daily, unaccountable expense payments and Rolls Royce-level pension and benefit packages.
The speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate will be paid $130,280. Floor leaders for all four caucuses will receive $121,418 and the appropriations committees chairmen and ranking minority members will receive $112,349.
In the judiciary, magisterial district judges - many of whom are, in effect, part time - will receive $86,608; common pleas judges, $173,212; Superior and Commonwealth courts judges, $188,272; Supreme Court justices, $199,537; and chief justice, $205,344.
Under the federal health care law, the federal/state Medicaid program will expand to cover thousands of uninsured low-income workers. Washington will pick up 100 percent of the cost for the first two years and states would be required to cover 10 percent after that.
The impending debate over whether Pennsylvania should participate is likely to feature impassioned pleas from lawmakers to resist programs imposed by Washington.
That's all the more reason that they should be forced to debate and vote on their raises. The law sparing them the trouble of defending their records when seeking greater pay should be repealed. Instead, the Legislature should establish an independent commission to recommend compensation across the government.