Members of the Alabama Senate have until Wednesday to notify the paymaster they don’t want the money. Members of the House have until April 22 to turn it down. Any legislator who accepts this adjustment is shameless, but we expect most will do it.
In a time when Gov. Robert Bentley has cut the Education Budget by $163 million, and the General Fund Budget by $90 million, it is unconscionable that our elected officials, who are benefiting from a 2006 pay increase of 60 percent, will accept another 1.5 percent of our money.
Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, says he will take the increase, and then talks about how much gasoline has gone up and how the hard-working Legislature deserves the extra money.
We have news for Rep. Newton. We all pay the same thing for gasoline. We all pay the same thing for groceries and the other necessities of life. In case he hasn’t noticed, Alabama citizens are struggling to make ends meet.
And so is the state.
Those cuts from Gov. Bentley (who is not even taking his salary, much less an increase) are not abstract. They will result in people losing jobs. We will have fewer employees in critical positions, like our court systems and state troopers, like the state Forestry Commission and prison guards.
Rep. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, voted for the pay increase in 2006, but says he will not take the increase. But he sings the same sad song as Newton, complaining about how much it costs to be a member of the Alabama Legislature. Out of his annual pay of $52,646, he says, he must pay for food, travel and housing. And the compensation does not include paid health insurance or retirement, he says.
We remind Rep. Beason and Rep. Newton that serving in the Legislature is a part-time job. Not many part-time jobs in the business world pay more than $50,000 per year, nor do they offer insurance or retirement benefits.
A few legislators refused the 2006 increase and have rejected the automatic adjustments made since then. We are pleased to report that Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, is one of those who has just said no to the extra money.
There are a couple of resolutions circulating in Montgomery that would cut back the salary increases and stop the automatic increases each year. Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, has sponsored one such resolution.
“We’re terminating people. We’re in the worst budget crisis we’ve ever seen, and the Legislature is going to get a cost-of-living raise?” he asked.
Sen. Dial can’t seem to believe his peers will take this money, despite the hard economic times besetting the state.
Unfortunately, we can believe it.
Last year the voting records of those who favored the increase in 2006 were a big issue in many legislative campaigns. We hope voters will remember those who continue to justify that increase, and now are intent on taking as much money from taxpayers as possible.