Thursday, March 08, 2007
On this day:

Legislators vote to give themselves a 60% pay raise

From the AP (emphasis added):

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Members of the Alabama House and Senate voted Thursday to give themselves a pay raise of about 60 percent.

Gov. Bob Riley promised to veto it, but said he expects it to be overridden in both chambers.

"We know that we don't have the votes," he said.

The House approved the resolution raising the annual compensation for lawmakers from $30,710 to $49,500 in an unrecorded voice vote shortly after going into session, and many members said they were not aware the pay raise was going to be introduced.

The Senate quickly followed by passing the measure, also on an unrecorded voice vote. Several Republican senators tried to get a recorded vote, but the presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., ignored their shouts and raised hands.

The resolution also provides for legislators' pay to be adjusted annually to reflect increases in the cost of living as indicated by the U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index. Legislators got their last pay raise in 1991. The Labor Department's index has gone up 54.2 percent since 1990. ...

The measure, sponsored in the House by Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, raises the monthly expense allowance lawmakers receive from $2,280 to $3,850. Their other daily compensation for legislative meeting days remains the same.

To be honest with you, the only objection I have to this pay-raise resolution is the way it was passed. For legislators to refuse to record their votes is just plain cowardly.

Substantively, I don't have a problem with it. Indexing legislative pay to the CPI seems to me to be a very reasonable idea. Essentially, it establishes a new rule: legislators will get an automatic yearly pay raise that is based on an objective measure of cost-of-living. That should make it much more difficult politically for legislators to justify additional pay raises - on top of the automatic increase - in the future. I hope the Governor will reconsider his promise to veto.