Editorial: Demand your money’s worth from elected officials

In 2022, many people will be hoping for an increase in salary, but it won’t be a guarantee.

Unless you happen to be a Pennsylvania lawmaker. Or judge. Or high-ranking government official.

For someone falling into one of these categories, 2022 not only will come with a raise, but it also will be the highest raise in 30 years — provided you don’t count that 2005 late-night boost that was repealed four months later because of the political fallout.

Those paychecks will climb by 5.6%, which is galling enough when expressed as a percentage. Look at it as a monetary amount, and it’s worse. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer will get $12,000, bringing his salary to $234,000. Other judges will range from $98,000 for a district judge to $227,000 for Baer’s colleagues on the Supreme Court.

Executive pay will range from the governor’s $213,000 to the $170,000 for cabinet secretaries. Legislators will see salaries of $98,000 for baseline lawmakers up to $149,000 for the leaders of the state House and Senate — and they get theirs starting Dec. 1 while the others have to wait until Jan. 1.

These aren’t things the government enacted right now. It’s driven by a state law that links increases to the consumer price index, meaning it’s all about inflation. That means you can’t actually blame the lawmakers and leaders for getting more money.

What you can do is demand more in return.

Too often it seems as though people work for their parties more than their people. It’s time for that to stop.

Elected officials and department leaders need to spend more time engaged with what is best for all of their constituents rather than just the ones with the loudest voices or the largest signs. That is particularly important this coming year, when several of those collecting more money are running for positions that will net them even more, such as the Governor’s mansion or the U.S. Senate.

This means there should be more connection to communities than to caucuses. More time spent with those impacted by decisions than with pollsters talking about what plays to the base. There are plenty of opportunities to do it right in 2022 — not the least of which will be the redistricting that will affect every state resident for the next 10 years.

The people might have to pay more for their government, but that means they need to get the most for their money. It is in every official’s hands to make sure that happens. It is in every resident’s power to demand it.

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