By Rep. Darrio Melton
Last week, several major news outlets across the state covered a story that should have outraged voters across Alabama.
The stories gave specific details about how the staff for Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard received large increases in pay over the last four years while state employees and teachers were overlooked in the budgeting process.
The articles detail the salary increases for Hubbard’s staff over the past four years- several of them receiving raises of 20 and 27 percent. Most of them received a raise between 5 and 15 percent.
Hubbard’s spokesperson Rachel Adams says that the pay increases are just like the merit raises state employees receive. “As the staff members’ responsibilities and work portfolios have expanded, their compensation has expanded as well,” she said.
But Adams and Speaker Hubbard miss the mark. They show now and again that they fail to understand working men and women in this state.
See, state employees merit raises have been frozen since 2009. Governor Bentley re-instated them starting January 1, 2014, but the state employees have still gone without their cost-of-living increase since 2008.
At the same time, we’ve cut nearly 11 percent of our state employees–we’ve fired 5,000 working men and women–and asked those who stayed to do more work for less money.
At the same time, teachers across Alabama have seen their pay cut by half a percent since 2010. Our class sizes are getting bigger and our funding for schools is dwindling. We’re asking our teachers to do more work for less money.
But Mike Hubbard’s staff? They better get the raise they think they deserve.
I have to ask–what makes the Speaker’s staff better than other state employees who keep Alabama operational? What makes their 27 percent pay raise acceptable to the Republican Supermajority, while they ask the average state employee making $37,389 per year to forego a two-percent pay raise or cost of living adjustment?
For the $10,000 annual increase Speaker Hubbard gave just one staffer, he could have given 13 state employees a pay raise.
So while Mike Hubbard and the Republicans talk about “Right-Sizing the Government” this election cycle, remember what that means to them: tremendous pay raises for their staff while freezing pay for teachers and state employees.
Representative Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.