Northampton County Council last night narrowly approved payraises for themselves ($7,000 to $9,500), the Exec ($65,000 to $85,000), and the Controller ($39,000 to $50,000). They did so even though many county employees are now approaching four years with no salary increases or contracts. Ron Angle, usually the "voice of the people," had no answer to the argument that this raise was a "slap across the face" of county workers who've also endured layoffs, reductions in health benefits and unhealthy working conditions. He justified the $2,500 raise as necessary to cover gas expenses. I can see that.
Four of council's supposed "tax and spend" liberals voted against this raise. Wayne Grube was convinced the timing was all wrong. Charles Dertinger (yep, he's the guy running for Congress) stressed the idea of public service. But the most impassioned argument came from Lamont McClure, who has now impressed me twice in two council meetings. In addition to county workers, he argued many Lehigh Valley residents have seen no raises for years, especially our growing senior population. He also noted the county's chief source of revenue, real estate, is going through a dry spell as that market weakens. Tony Branco also voted against the measure without comment.
County officials are certainly underpaid, but don't you think they should first be thinking about the county's workforce?
County Exec Stoffa has authority to veto this ordinance, and six members of Council would have to vote to override that veto. Although Stoffa would surely hesitate before contravening a majority, I am certain a veto would be embraced by a majority of the county's workers and residents.
Friday Update: Both the Express Times and Morning Call have thorough reports on yesterday's payraise vote. According to The Morning Call account, Exec Stoffa is considering a veto.