Senate: Don’t repeal pay raise

Published 9:55 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2011

MONTGOMERY, — Efforts to repeal the Legislature’s pay raise appeared dead Tuesday after the Senate’s Republican and Democratic leaders endorsed an alternative that would maintain the $52,596 annual compensation — unless the state operating budget has to be cut in future years.

On the first day of the Legislature’s 2011 session, a bipartisan group of senators endorsed a resolution saying that if the governor has to cut the state General Fund budget because appropriations exceeded tax collections, then legislators’ compensation will be cut by the same percentage. The resolution would start in 2012, rather than this year, when Gov. Robert Bentley has already announced plans for a 15-percent reduction.

The Senate could vote on the resolution as early as Thursday.

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Then it would have to be approved by the House before taking effect.

Sen. Gerald Dial, D-Lineville, introduced a separate resolution to repeal the 61 percent raise the Legislature gave itself in 2007 and the annual cost-of-living increases that have occurred since then. Senate Majority Leader Del Marsh, R-Anniston, blocked immediate consideration of the resolution by the Senate.

Dial said he and several other legislators ran on a platform of trying to repeal the raise, and he wanted to keep his promise.

Marsh said there is not enough support in the Senate to pass Dial’s resolution. “That issue cold put this body in a stalemate,” he said.

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, and Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, agreed that the majority of the Senate is behind the other resolution.

Bedford said the Republican leadership had made it clear to Democrats that repealing the raise “is off the table.”

House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, said he had not heard of any proposals in the House to rescind or cut the pay hike. He said cutting the pay would hurt freshman legislators who expected that level of compensation when they ran last fall.

“We have a lot of very high caliber freshmen legislators, some of whom resigned very good jobs to take this job,” Hammon said.

Senate Republicans said the resolution to reduce legislative compensation when budget cuts occur in 2012 and beyond won’t apply to the cuts the governor plans for the current budget because many legislators are new and had nothing to do with the Legislature passing the overly optimistic budget last spring.