By Jon Delano, KDKA Political Editor

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The average Pennsylvanian makes about $44,000.

The average state legislator in Harrisburg makes about $78,000 until last week when an automatic cost of living hike gave them each a $1,300 raise.

They got the raise without voting on it because after the pay raise debacle of 2005, lawmakers found a new way to hike their pay without anyone’s fingers on it.

While senior citizens have their Social Security cost of living increases frozen for two years in a row and tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians cannot find work, one group paid by taxpayers quietly got a pay raise on Dec. 1.

Pennsylvania lawmakers, top state officials and judges got a 1.7 percent pay hike, boosting legislative pay to $79,616, not counting per diems and all the other perks.

“I just think it’s unconscionable for anybody, especially in public service,” says PA Rep. Randy Vulakovich of Shaler.

Vulakovich is one of the area legislators not taking the increase. In fact, the former police officer has never taken a pay raise since first taking office four years ago.

“Whatever my starting salary would be whenever it would start that would be my salary when I leave or retire at some day, and I just keep that promise,” he says.

This most recent raise was automatic – without a legislative vote – and Vulakovich, a Republican, says Republican leaders – now that they control the legislature – need to schedule a vote to repeal this hike in January.

“The overall best way to do it is just repeal it. If you want a raise, then vote on it. Put your name on record,” says Vulakovich.

Some legislators are not taking the increase. Others are giving it to charity, although critics say it’s not their money to give away.

Vulakovich says with people hurting and significant budget cuts coming in 2011, “certainly right now everybody should agree that they should not take this COLA. We have to set an example.”

Now some lawmakers are doing what Vulakovich has done — return the entire pay raise to the state treasury.

But it’s not yet clear how many are following this example.

If you find out what your state rep or senator is doing, you may share that information by email at