Bill to cut lawmaker salaries?

Published 1:21 pm Saturday, March 31, 2012

Voters could soon have the chance to dictate how much legislators in Alabama will be paid if a proposed amendment makes it to the ballot in November.

If approved by voters, the amendment would see the pay currently given to legislators drop to a point more in line with the median household income for Alabama based on figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. That change would find the new legislative salary range between $45,980 and $46,180 annually — down from the more than $53,000 currently paid for those positions.

State Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, said if the bill creating the amendment comes to the House for consideration, he has plans to support it.

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“I think this is certainly something that the voters should be able to decide,” Baker said. “They should be allowed to make the determination if this change is justifiable.”

Baker also said he has declined pay raises for the past two years and would do so again if raises were offered to legislators for fiscal 2013.

“I don’t have a good feel for how other legislators feel about this issue,” Baker said. “But I would certainly decline, for the third time, any pay raise proposed for legislators.”

The bill, currently sponsored by Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison and Sen. Brian Taylor, R-Prattville, would also allow for certain other expenses to be allowed for legislators. Those other expenses would include mileage reimbursement, per diem allotments and expense benefits as state employees, Baker said.

The decision may be more eminent after members of the House and Senate return from spring break on April 3 — just one day after a deadline to accept or reject annual cost of living adjustments passes. The adjustment, which Baker said he would decline, would give legislators an additional $1,600 in salary if approved.

State Sen. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, said if he were to accept the proposed pay hike he would return the money to the people of his district, as he has done with past raises.

“My first year I didn’t accept the increase,” Keahey said. “Last year I did and I ended up giving it back through payments of around $65 a month to schools in my district.”

While skeptical of Taylor’s proposed amendment, Keahey said what he knows for certain is that any upcoming raise to his salary would again be funneled into District 22 and not allowed to revert back into the General Fund.

“I’m not sure (the amendment) wouldn’t be a pay raise for some legislators,” he said. “With travel expenses and things of that nature, it could be. The bill, I think, could be more of an attempt to make a splash with the press. All I know for sure right now is that I am not going to let that money go back into the General Fund. If I let that happen the money will never make it back into my district.”