Philly-area legislators not cashing their paychecks during budget impasse

 Pa. Senator Andrew Dinniman (left) and Pa. State Rep. Dan Truitt (Images via official websites)

Pa. Senator Andrew Dinniman (left) and Pa. State Rep. Dan Truitt (Images via official websites)

Echoing the cutbacks experienced by schools and nonprofits, some lawmakers in Southeastern Pennsylvania are symbolically forgoing pay for as long as the state budget impasse lasts.

“I’ve got my paychecks just piling up here on my desk, and I’m hoping I don’t have to cash any of them until this is over,” said State Rep. Dan Truitt (R-West Chester).

Truitt joins area state senators Andrew Dinniman (D-19th), John Rafferty Jr. (R-44th), Judy Schwank (D-11th) and Rep. Steve Santarsiero, (D-31th) in refusing pay. The Pottstown Mercury reached out to more local lawmakers about whether or not they, too, would take a hit during the budget impasse, but received few replies.

Lawmakers receive about $7,000 a month for their civil service, although many also own businesses or have other sources of income. Gov. Tom Wolf has never claimed his own $187,256 salary for occupying the office.

The budget is now more than two months overdue, and budget negotiations have gone behind closed doors after a failed veto override orchestrated by the GOP and ad campaigns by PACs affiliated with both Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

In the crosshairs are schools, public and charter, as well as social service agencies that depend on state grants to stay afloat.

In 2009, a budget stalemate pitting the legislature against Gov. Ed Rendell lasted 101 days. State employees didn’t receive their paychecks during that period, which prompted a change in the law. Now, when the state doesn’t have a budget employees still get paid.

Dinniman said he hopes that lawmakers who are forgoing pay will have more skin in the game, and push the budget process along, now that state employees aren’t applying pressure.

“If enough of us don’t accept our checks, it will put the pressure on to finally achieve the compromise,” he said. 

Others called the choice to take a paycut “personal” and would not assign an agenda.

Still, some lawmakers could not resist making the denial about partisan optics.

“[Wolf] has got to make some kind of a move in our direction,” said Truitt. “At this point, he hasn’t.”

Dinniman said he could see several ways forward, whether it was a compromise on state employee pensions or shale tax.

Wolf is reported to be weighing a compromise that would cede some ground to pension reform in exchange for a substantial increase in education funding.

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