As a legislator, I get a lot of calls on a lot of issues. Lately, I’ve gotten an earful on the legislative pay raise that so many thought would be repealed with the new majority. As a freshman legislator, I run a risk even taking a public stand on this issue (even some of the more senior members have avoided the issue like the plague). But, I wasn’t elected to run from risks, and sometimes you must call a spade a spade, whatever the cost.
Some of my colleagues gave up good-paying private sector jobs to serve in the Alabama Legislature. They, now, say they would not have run in the first place (and would have to resign) if they didn’t have the full legislative compensation package. These concessions, after months of campaigning against the 61% payraise, sound just a little hollow. And, after painful cuts forced on state workers, the inaction of the legislature on the legislative pay issue has created some serious credibility problems for the members of this body, myself included.
Like some of my colleagues, I gave up a good job to serve the people in my district. I left a good law firm, where I had built my career, to start up a law practice that would accommodate my service in the Legislature. I commend my colleagues who chose public service over profit. But, service in the State Legislature doesn’t mean that we are somehow insulated from the State’s financial woes.
That is why I turned in a letter to the Legislative Accounting Office requesting that my entire legislative pay be prorated 15%, the same as the General Fund. I also turned down the automatic payraise. I represent a district whose largest economic engine is State government, and many of my constituents put food on the table with the salaries they make at their State jobs. The people in my district are feeling the pain of budget cuts. I want them to know that I share in that pain, and that I will work with them and for them to see us all through to the other side.
Only by addressing head-on the legislative pay problem (created long before many of us were elected) can we restore credibility to this body. And, we cannot make some of the difficult but necessary decisions without that credibility and the trust of those who elected us. So, I sincerely hope my colleagues in the Legislature join me in reaching a hand out to those hit hardest by these difficult economic times.