In a ruling on one of the most contentious political issues to hit Pennsylvania in decades, the state Supreme Court ruled that the legislature violated the state constitution by allowing lawmakers to take midterm pay raises last year, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Separately, the court reinstated the raises for 1,000 members of the state judiciary – including its own – that ended when the legislature repealed the pay hikes amid an outpouring of public outrage in November. The controversy already has claimed at the voting polls one Supreme Court justice and 17 legislators.
The 16 percent raise was passed without debate by the General Assembly at 2 a.m. on July 7, 2005. The legislation, signed the next day by Gov. Rendell, also boosted pay for judges. Four months later, after a populist uprising, the legislature reversed course and repealed the raises. The court found the legislature wrongly used “unvouchered expense” accounts to pay its members the higher salary immediately, sidestepping a constitutional ban on midterm raises. In all, 158 members took at least a portion of the pay raise. About 40 have not voluntarily returned the money.