Legislature vote on pay raise is irresponsible

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 17, 2007

The decision by members of the Alabama House of Representatives and Senate to grant themselves a 60 percent pay increase is irresponsible. And wrong.

Muscling it through - even with a veto by Gov. Bob Riley - is a mistake.

Legislators probably deserve a compensation adjustment, but the hike of nearly $20,000 - $30,710 to $49,500 - is excessive and unreasonable no matter how rosy the state's current economic picture.

Their action sends a series of improper messages to the people of Alabama.

That it is among the first items to be considered seems selfish, suggesting their concern for their own pocketbooks is more important than the truly critical mission of developing budgets for the state, its agencies and overall operations.

That the amount is excessive borders on simple common sense. Who among normal folks is ever granted a single financial increase of that magnitude? Recommending a raise of 3 to 5 percent would appear more logical, one of 10 percent at the outer edge of understandable rationale.

That the post of Representative or Senator remains part-time is a fact largely forgotten and maybe ignored. Still, if the demands of a legislator have expanded, that should be adjusted in conjunction with any compensation change.

That an annual cost of living increase is included as well only adds to the issue of self-protection, irritating especially those who suggest merit increases are a more proper course of payroll alteration. And the surprise legislation - amount and timing - is disappointing in that candidates who sought to serve knew exactly the pay schedule before making their services available. Maybe any consideration of a huge raise should be linked to the next term instead of the current one.

At a time when legislators face significant obstacles in making government run smoothly and effectively, at a time when accountability is already in question and at a time when confidence in elected leaders is low, members of the Alabama House and Senate would be wise to revisit their proposal and to revise to level lower their excessive request.