1999 Year Of The Pay Raise For Many Lawmakers

 

WASHINGTON - Emboldened by the booming economy and robust budget surpluses, state legislators in many parts of the country are making 1999 the year of the pay raise.

Lawmakers in 10 states - Maryland, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, California, New York, Colorado, Arizona, Massachusetts and Connecticut - will be getting fatter salaries this year.

And five other states - Kansas, Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee - are talking about paying their legislators more.

One exception to the national trend is New Mexico, where lawmakers get no salary for their 60-day session, just a per diem. That per diem was just cut by $1, bringing it down to $124 a day.

Legislative pay can be a sensitive subject politically. After South Carolina lawmakers received a meager $400 increase to their $10,000 annual salary in 1991, they waited eight years before making a cautious bid for $15,000.

"I feel I personally deserve a pay raise," Democratic Rep. Curtis Inabinett told The State, a Columbia, South Carolina, newspaper. "I spend a lot of time doing constituent work at home," Inabinett said. "You're subject to calls 24 hours a day, 12 months of the year."

To put South Carolina legislator pay in perspective, if the $10,000 that General Assembly members made in 1978 had kept pace with inflation, they would be earning $24,620 today.

"Public servants are not always held in high esteem, and whenever they vote for an increase in pay that essentially goes to themselves, it can be met with skepticism," says Brian Weberg, with the National Conference of State Legislatures. "That's why, in many states a legislature cannot vote a pay raise to itself."

That's the route California took on its way to the highest state legislative pay in the country, $99,000. That sum, which reflects a 26 percent increase that kicked in the first of the year, was deemed appropriate by a citizens panel.

New York legislators, on the other hand, were directly responsible for a 38 percent pay hike that took them from $57,500 last year to $79,500 in 1999. The New York pols included their salary hike in a measure raising Gov. George Pataki's pay from $130,000 to $179,000. However, it was their first raise since 1989.

California has a ten month legislative session, while New York lawmakers work the entire year.

Colorado lawmakers, who meet from early January to early May, okayed a 71 percent pay raise two years ago that takes effect this year and pushes their pay from $17,500 to $30,000 annually.

Whatever the legislative pay scale, there are some citizens in every state who cannot be disabused of the notion that their representatives in the statehouse are overpaid.

In Pennsylvania, where legislators will not get a pay raise this year, former newspaper reporter Regis Stefanik is so incensed over the $58,341 annual salary the state pays its lawmakers that he created www.downandout.org, a forum where he grouses about legislative compensation.

It rankles Stefanik, who lives in Apollo, a western Pennsylvania town, that lawmakers are reimbursed for leasing cars, have paid medical insurance, and can continue to earn income from businesses they run.

 
X

Related Stories

    • Stateline Story
    September 30, 2008
    image description

    Cascading economic problems flowing from the crisis on Wall Street are forcing states to urgently redraw their financial blueprints for the rest of this year and next to cushion the impact of the credit squeeze, staggering paper losses for millions of ordinary Americans and soaring energy prices.
    more

    • Stateline Story
    September 26, 2008
    image description

    Four members of Congress say the bailout of insurance giant American International Group Inc. points up a need for federal - not just state - regulation of insurers. But state officials protest that they had nothing to do with the crash of AIG.
    more

    • Stateline Story
    September 3, 2008
    image description

    Sept. 2, 2008,  6:45 p.m. EDTWith the exception of Gov. Sarah Palin's lawyer, it appears U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign staffers didn't ask key Alaskans what they thought about the first-term governor before naming her his running mate, the Anchorage Daily News, The New York Times and others report. If they had, McCain's people might have heard something like this: "She's a total beginner on national and international issues," the Anchorage Daily News wrote in an editorial, it's her "one huge weakness." "Most people would acknowledge that, regardless of her charm and good intentions, Palin is not ready for the top job," the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner wrote. "At the national level Palin will have to be much more than a fresh and pretty face. Even in the next 24 hours she'll need a boatload of schooling on a shipload of issues, and the savvy to convince others she really does know what she's talking about," The Juneau Empire wrote. The Juneau paper continues: "For Palin and her handlers to say she's reformed a corrupt political system in her first two years as Alaska's governor is a stretch at best. So is saying she boldly bucked the influences of big oil in the state, and that she flatly said no to Ketchikan's infamous 'bridge to nowhere,' that had been earmarked in the federal budget." The editorial writers also noted some serious political risks, among them an ongoing investigation into Palin's termination of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Some charge Monegan was fired because he failed to bow to pressure from Palin's allies to fire a state trooper who had a messy divorce from Palin's sister.  "It's a gamble that could pay off big, or it could be a bust of unparalleled proportions," The Juneau Empire wrote of McCain's choice. The Fairbanks paper concluded, "It's clear that McCain picked Palin for reasons of image, not substance. She's a woman. She has fought corruption. She has fought the oil companies. She's married to a union member. These are portrayals for campaign speeches; they are not policy positions." But all three papers say the attention paid to Alaska is good for the state. And the Anchorage paper notes that Palin offers a compelling political image. "Palin is comfortable around guns and snowmachines and fishing boats. She has a son in the military, soon to be deployed to Iraq. Those nontraditional female credentials help communicate the toughness that Republicans want to project in their campaign. Her youth and good looks are a handy complement to McCain, who is the oldest first-time presidential candidate in U.S. history." -Christine Vestal Comments
    more

    • Stateline Story
    February 6, 2008
    image description

    This column was published simultaneously by The Politico.It took a while for most of the presidential candidates to figure out that voters want "change" and action on a variety of issues that affect their lives. They might have gotten it sooner if they had noticed the way that many states, led by innovative governors, are moving forward in areas like health care, immigration and global warming.
    more

    • Stateline Story
    April 6, 2006
    image description

    In a disturbing new trend, unelected federal regulators are usurping states' powers to protect their citizens, leaders of the National Conference of State Legislatures charged at a national gathering in Washington, D.C. Lawmakers said they are seeing a rise in use of the federal regulatory process to preempt state laws in areas of consumer protection, tort law and the environment.
    more

PCS.PRODUCTION.1.20140221.1210 (PEWSUWVMWAPP01)