By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Today, the Alabama House of Representatives did something unprecedented in the world of politics, they voted themselves a pay cut.
In what is said to be an effort to restore public trust and to bring sanity to legislative compensation the House passed a bill today to reverse the 61 percent pay raise that was given state lawmaker by the Democrat controlled body in 2007.
Bill HB269 sponsored in the House by Rep Mike Ball (R-Huntsville) meet with options from democrats but prevailed over all political maneuverings.
Rep. Ball said that he had worked with colleagues in the House and Senate with the goal of putting “servant,” back into the idea of public service.
“In an era when the nation’s political class suffers it lowest popularity in a generation, it is time for us to do the right thing by putting our pay back into the hands of the voters,” Ball said.
The bill would prohibit the Legislature from voting to raise its own pay and expense ever again.
“What I did was try to come up with a formula that would lay this issue to rest so the Alabama Legislature would never have to deal with it again,” said Ball, “I wanted something fair, something reasonable, so I came up with the idea of tying our pay to the median income of the state.”
It also fixes compensation for legislators equal to the median household income, as ascertained and adjusted each year independently by the State Personnel Board.
Rep. Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood) who has never taken any pay increases said, The original 61 percent pay raise hurt the public’s trust in the Legislature. It was done on a voice vote and as one of the first acts of business, [in 2007]. I refused the original pay raise and every cost-of-living increase since that date.”
Ball said that he hoped the bill would begin the process of restoring public trust because Legislative compensation would be tied to how well the people in Alabama were actually prospering.
Ball said, “It is almost like merit pay and every year when the household income numbers come in it is like a report card and we will get a grade if the people are prospering we will get a good grade and a pay increase, if they are not prospering we get a bad grade and and we will get punished. That’s fair, I think.”
The bill will requires lawmakers to live by the same rules that they apply to everyone else in state government for reimbursement of expenses. It will limits official travel reimbursement to state employee rates and procedures. It requires legislators to support reimbursement requests with signed vouchers, as well as a host of other oversight requirements.
The salary proposal in the bill, would reduce legislators compensation from the current $52, 446 to around $43, 697 reducing lawmakers compensation by all most 10, 000 dollars. Tying the whole package together with the state’s median income.
“What better barometer of how well the Legislature is doing its job, than how well the people of the state are doing,” said Ball.
The bill will now be taken up in the Alabama Senate where it will be sponsored by Sen. Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville).