By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
It is a rare occurrence if ever that a politician wants to return money to the taxpayers. It is even more rare that legislators want to lower their own paycheck. However, a group of Alabama State Senators and Representatives plan to do just that.
In an effort to restore public trust and to bring sanity to legislative compensation Sen. Bryan Taylor (R-Pratville) and Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) decided to try to reverse the 61 percent pay raise that was given state lawmaker by the Democrat controlled body in 2007. Williams had first filed a bill last year that served as the precursor to the one introduced today.
Taylor and Williams have been joined by other state legislators in their efforts. While Taylor will carry the bill in the senate, Rep. Mike Ball (R-Huntsville) will represent the bill in the house.
At a press conference yesterday in front of the Statehouse, Taylor said, “ In 2007 when the democrats controlled majority came in to session the first thing they did was pass themselves a whooping 61 percent pay raise with automatic annual cost of living increases.”
Taylor said that he and his colleagues want to rescind the lavish salaries that the democrats give themselves and turn the entire process of Legislative salaries over to the voters. The bill that would accomplish this was file in the House and Senate just minutes before the press conference.
The bill calls for a Constitutional amendment that would give voters the right to repeal the 61 percent pay raise. “This will give the voters the right to decide and settle Legislative compensation, once and for all so, that the Legislature will never be able to vote itself a pay raise again” said Taylor.
Taking the podium Sen. Williams said, “In my opinion this is one of the greatest efforts to restore public trust.”
Referring to the democrat pay raise in 2007, Williams, said, “In my opinion, this is heinous, this is a breech of the public trust.” William continued by saying that this was to show the public that as Legislators, “We care, we are committed and we are fair.”
The salaries for proposal in the Legislative compensation bill, will be set at the median Alabama income. This would reduce legislators compensation from the current $52, 446 to $43, 697 reducing lawmakers compensation by all most 10, 000 dollars. Under the proposed legislation compensation for lawmakers would be controlled by the State Personnel Board and not the Legislature. “This is to make sure that the Legislature never again votes itself a pay raise ever again,” said Williams.
William said that he and others had never taken the democrat pay raise but that was a personal choice. “We are going to put a system in place that is objective, is measurable, reasonable and actually has transparency attached to it,” said Williams.
Rep. Ball said that they had all worked together to produce the bill and that his goal was to turn the matter over to the will of the people of Alabama.
In an era when the nation’s political class suffers it lowest popularity in a generation, these Alabama state lawmakers are taking step to restore public trust and return “servant,” to public service.
The following is an outline of the bill’s content:
Repeal & Resolve
A ConstitutionalAmendment to repeal the 61 percent legislative pay raise and resolve the legislative compensation issue once and for all by taking it out of the hands of the Legislature forever.
This Amendment will go to the voters for approval.
Repeals the Pay Raise
- Repeals the 61 percent legislative pay raise that the Democratic majority enacted in 2007.
- Repeals the automatic annual cost-of-living- adjustment.
- Repeals all previously enacted undocumented “expense allowances.”
- Repeals all other provisions of law relating to legislative compensation and expenses.
Resolves the Legislative Compensation Issue Forever
- Prohibits the Legislature from voting to raise its own pay and expense ever again.
- Fixes compensation for legislators equal to the median household income, as ascertained and adjusted each year independently by the State Personnel Board.
Holds Lawmakers Publicly Accountable for Expenses of Office
- Requires lawmakers to live by the same rules that they apply to everyone else in state government for reimbursement of expenses.
- Limits official travel reimbursement to state employee rates and procedures.
- Requires legislators to support reimbursement requests with signed vouchers.
- Requires approval of expense reimbursement by the presiding officers before payments can her made.
- Prohibits reimbursement for mileage and other travel expenses incurred within the legislator’s home district.
- Prohibits per diem for travel during the legislative session for legislators who live within 50 miles of the capital.
- Grants oversight of legislative compensation and expenses to the State Personnel Board and requires the Board to publish annual reports of legislative expenses paid to members.