Lawmakers pay raise may be cut

Published 12:06 am Saturday, November 20, 2010

State Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) said Wednesday he will file a resolution to repeal at 62 percent pay raise the Legislature granted itself during the 2007 Regular Session.

Dial stated at an Alabama Statehouse news conference that his measure would restore legislative expenses and salaries back to their 2006 level before the pay increase passed both Houses in a voice vote in 2007.

The measure will likely spur plenty of debate within the Legislature as the newly-elected body readies itself to tackle economic issues plaguing Alabama.

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“The pay raise granted in 2007 costs the taxpayers some $3 million per year, or $12 million over a four-year period,” Dial said of his proposed resolution. “At the time it was passed, it was a bad idea. It is still a bad idea today with so many Alabamians out of work. Serving in the Alabama Legislature is not a full-time job, and the salaries should reflect that.”

If passed, Dial’s resolution would move the annual compensation allowance for each legislature from $49,296 back to the level which was approved during the 1991 Regular Session.

Over the entirety of the 141-member legislature, the move would provide an annual difference of $3,092,976 a year. Repealing Act 2007-75 would also shift the Lieutenant Governor’s salary from $67,506 annually back to $48,870.

Rep. A.J. McCampbell (D-Demopolis) cautions that a complete repeal of the pay raise may be a short-sighted reaction.

“To go and say we’re going to repeal it and not take into account what we’re doing, these types of things make good sound bites,” McCampbell said via a telephone interview Wednesday. “But if all we’re doing is providing sound bites and not following through on the full thought processes involved, we’re not doing our job as a legislature.”

McCampbell said he has no preference regarding the matter, but that any vote as to legislative compensation should consider economic factors such as inflation which affect the cost of living.

“I voted for the pay raise at the time,” McCampbell said. “I haven’t seen the legislation (proposed by Dial). I can work with it either way. I do not have a preference. I do think you have to take into account inflation. A dollar today does not go as far as it did then.”

McCampbell expressed his concern that such a return to the former compensation plan, which paid individual members of the legislature $30,660 annually, would ultimately bring about a shift in the makeup of the legislature.

“You’re going to have a legislature that is ruled only by rich people who can afford to go down there,” McCampbell said of his belief that such a move would eventually impede upon the ability of citizens in lower tax brackets to serve in the Legislature.

“If that’s what America wants, then we need to go back to the 1901 Constitution that said it is 10 cents a mile for one trip to Montgomery and $10 a day,” McCampbell said.

The District 71 representative stopped short of saying he would be opposed to such a move, instead leaning toward the notion that an adjustment of expense might be the best solution.

“You can do any number of things with this,” McCampbell said. “There are some things you can adjust and should adjust.”