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Inflation gives pay raise gift to top Pennsylvania officials

Matt Rourke

Inflation is gift-wrapping another big salary increase for hundreds of Pennsylvania state lawmakers, judges and top executive branch officials in 2023, including boosting rank-and-file lawmakers and district judges into six-figure territory.

For many of these positions, it’s the biggest increase since the 1990s, when lawmakers passed legislation to give themselves annual salary increases by tying them to inflation rates.

Salaries across the board will rise 7.8%, a figure tied by state law to the year-over-year change in the consumer price index published this month by the U.S. Department of Labor for mid-Atlantic urban areas.

That salary increase is substantially higher — about 50% higher — than what federal data shows for average private sector wages in Pennsylvania during the same time period.

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Rank-and-file lawmakers will earn nearly $103,000, or an additional $7,400. The Legislature's highest paid officers, the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore, will make more than $160,000, up $11,600.

Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro will make almost $230,000, up $16,600 from this year's salary for governor, and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Debra Todd will make about $252,000, up about $18,000 for the position.

It is the largest year-over-year inflationary increase for mid-Atlantic urban areas in October since 1981, according to the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the time, the United States turned to stringent fiscal policy to control “the Great Inflation."

The increase applies to more than 1,300 positions, including the governor, Cabinet members, three statewide elected officers, all 253 lawmakers, and state and county judges. It takes effect Dec. 1 for lawmakers and Jan. 1 for judicial and executive branch officials.

They are already enjoying a substantial bump in pay this year, 5.6%, also juiced by inflation.

The highest paid position is the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. The other six justices on the court will see their salaries rise to almost $245,000.

The highest-paid executive branch official affected by the increase is the governor, although Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has said he has donated the salary to charity every year he’s been in office, since 2015. Shapiro will be inaugurated Jan. 17 to replace the term-limited Wolf.

Lt. Gov.-elect Austin Davis will see his salary rise to almost $193,000, while whoever replaces Shapiro as attorney general will make $191,000. Auditor General Tim DeFoor and Treasurer Stacy Garrity also will be paid $191,000.

The state's more than 300 county common pleas judges will see their salaries rise above $200,000 to about $212,500, while hundreds more district judges will see their salaries hit six-figures for the first time, rising above $106,000.

The salary increases come at a time of steady growth in wages for private sector workers — although not nearly as fast.

Federal data from October showed average weekly earnings for all private-sector workers in Pennsylvania increased 5.1% year-over-year to $1042, or by about $53.50, to about $54,200 over an entire year.