A bipartisan duo of state senators is looking to make it a bit more painful for lawmakers to pass a late Pennsylvania budget – by putting top officials’ pay on the line.
Under the measure backed by Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Allegheny, and Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin, a budget passed after the end of the fiscal year on June 30 would trigger a suspension of pay for state lawmakers, the lieutenant governor, the governor, and his cabinet. A similar measure introduced in the latest legislative session suspended pay for only the governor and state lawmakers.
“The point is that legislators and elected officials in general should live under the same rules that apply to everyone else,” said Teplitz. “If the budget is passed late and there are consequences of that to organizations and individuals that depend on public funds, then legislators and other elected officials should suffer the same consequences.”
Former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell was famous for his late budgets, and said substance should trump timeliness. But Teplitz said lawmakers don’t have to choose between the two.
“The fact that it’s a tough budget doesn’t mean that it has to be a late budget,” Teplitz said. “It just means we should be starting earlier and working harder in the process.”
The pay suspension would not kick in for any past-deadline bills that typically accompany the budget (commonly referred to as “the codes”).
“There is always the sort of game about the accompanying bills,” said Teplitz. “I think it would be hard to include that in this effort because it would be very easy to circumvent and move things around.”
The measure is silent on whether lawmakers could still collect per diem payments and daily expense reimbursements in the event of a late budget. Teplitz said he may still expand the bill’s language to address those other forms of compensation.