IF YOU HAD TAKEN A JOB ON A STATE PUBLIC UTILITY commission back in 1928, at the average pay scale for regulators, and still held that position today, how would you have fared?
The answer: It depends on which state you worked for.
In 1928 Public Utilities Fortnightly reported an average annual salary for state PUC members of $5,092.64 ("Your State Public Service Commissioners," Feb. 23, 1928, p. 9). Salaries ranged from as low as $2,000 and $2,200 (Vermont and Mississippi), to as high as $10,000 (Pennsylvania), $12,000 (New Jersey) and $15,000 (New York).
Assuming an average yearly inflation rate of 3.4 percent during the last 69 years, today's state regulator would need to pull down about $51,152 per year to keep up (maintaining the cost of living, at least) with the average salary of his 1928 counterpart. (And roughly $100,442 to keep up with the Pennsylvania PUC, about $150,663 for New York, but only about $22,097 in Mississippi.)
Yet according to the 1994-95 NARUC Yearbook of Regulatory Agencies, the average annual salary for a public utility commissioner in 1995 was $75,748 - more than a 43-percent increase.
PUC members in Nevada fared very well, with an average annual salary of $76,000 today, roughly triple the 1928 salary if expressed in current terms (see chart). Compared to other states in the chart, Pennsylvania's current salary fell closest to the 1928 adjusted salary, especially if use of an automobile is taken into consideration. New York regulators are the only ones in the chart that have received a salary cut (36.5 percent) when compared with 1928. F
Sampling of Average Annual State PUC Member Salaries
State 1928 1928 adjusted %n1%n 1997 %n2%n Change