PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When it came to cutting funds to education and virtually every state department, the state legislature didn’t spare the axe, except when it came to their own salaries.
The new state budget includes salary increases for each legislator.
Nina Esposito-Visgitis, of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, says she is appalled that the legislature would cut more than a billion dollars in aid to school districts and give themselves a pay bump.
“They seem to want to put it on the backs of others, but not take any responsibility themselves and that is unconscionable,” Esposito-Visgitis said.
The legislators don’t even need to vote on their salary increases; they come automatically every year under a 1995 bill giving them an annual cost of living benefit.
Every year, each gets an increase tied to the consumer price index – usually between two and five percent.
“With the amount of cuts that hit just about every line item in the budget to some extent, it’s not something I feel good about. It’s not something I take now,” said State Sen. James Brewster, of McKeesport.
Since he’s been in the State Senate, Brewster has joined other legislators in putting his cost-of-living increases back into state coffers. He says he’d support an effort to repeal the automatic increases.
“We’re only here for one reason, to service the public, and I think it’s important that they know we’re not here for the money,” he added.
There are some bills to do away with the cost of living increases, but none have gone beyond committee and none are expected to be voted on this year. For the foreseeable future, the legislators will continue to collect these increases regardless of how much they cut in other areas.