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Editorial: Sen. Williams Takes Issue with Press-Register’s Mischaracterization of Legislative Pay

From the Office of Senator Phil Williams

For the record:

“The recent editorial by the Press-Register regarding the new Act to cut legislative pay was incredibly short sighted and lacked a full view of the facts. As the Senate sponsor for the legislation that cuts legislative pay I have to take issue with the complete misrepresentation of this well thought out Act. The most important point that was completely overlooked (or simply ignored) by the editorialist is that the Act specifically ensures that the legislature will never have an opportunity to vote on its own pay again…..ever. That’s a salient point and was specifically included to prevent any future repeat of the self-serving pay increase that the previous majority rammed through in 2007.

The next point that must be taken into consideration is that the new Act specifically places the legislature under the control of the State Personnel Board. The new majority recognizes that a restoration of the public trust must also include doing away with any ivory tower mentalities that may have infected the halls of the Statehouse in the past. We are State employees, and should not be so bold as to consider ourselves any differently.

The Press-Register then goes on to imply that tying legislative pay to the median household income is somehow inappropriate – that we are in some way acting in a pretentious manner by pretending to identify with our constituents. I’ve got news….of course we want to identify with our constituents! We would be wrong not to. By tying legislative pay to the median income two goals were accomplished: 1. We are accountable to the efforts we make to grow the economy in this great state. If we do well and our constituents benefit, then the possibility exists that legislative pay could go up if approved by the State Personnel Board. But if we do a poor job we will feel it in our own wallets. And 2. It deliberately puts a standard in place that prevents any future legislative body from being able to find a new standard to suit themselves.

Lastly, the implication by the editorial board at the Press-Register is clear: they believe that the legislature is in some way “getting over” on the taxpayers. Each person who runs for office does so with their eyes wide open and so no allegation of complaint should be drawn from this rebuttal. But it does bear stating that every legislator who follows the calling to serve his or her District in Alabama pays for their expenses out-of-pocket. Every time we go to Montgomery the game is on to find the most affordable room, a reasonable meal, and the hope that gas prices will go down. Unlike other State employees the legislature has had no established means of expense reimbursement other than a small stipend that was established many years ago that does not cover the average cost of today’s hotel room.

In summary, the Press-Register’s editorial board has missed the mark completely. In good faith, and in an effort to restore the public trust, the Republican majority fought hard  and won a repeal of the 2007 pay raise and removed the ability for any future legislative body to ever give itself a raise again. We have done what we can, and all we ask now is that the citizens of this State join our efforts by approving the measure at the polls.”

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