Sen. Marc Keahey, Sen. Cam Ward, Rep. Joe Hubbard, and Rep. John Merrill will be blogging here during the 2011 Legislative Session.

The Payraise Predicament

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  Lately, I’ve gotten an earful on the legislative pay raise that so many thought would be repealed with the new majority.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.

41 comments to The Payraise Predicament

  • Joe

    15% will not get you off the hook on this Joe but you are to be commended for doing that.

    Don’t let the Republicans skate on this.

    And enough of the public “service” crap. Its just a job to you.

    A very dissatisfied voter who will not forget 4 years from now.

  • Suzyk

    I am a staunch Conservative, but I did vote for you, Mr. Hubbard. You appeared to be more conservative than David Grimes. I gave you a chance. Republicans ran on repealing that raise. If they don’t and if you don’t join them – you will be voted out. This IS a big deal to us out here. We are awake, watching and we are tired of it. We are suffering out here, but the State, County and City workers think they are except. Oh ya, and there is that silly little detail of what was done is against the Alabama Constitution. I don’t want to hear that you gave up jobs – if you don’t like your elected job – quit and go back to what you were doing.

  • au1977

    we are except!

  • Worker

    I am a CPA who also left a good paying job in the private sector to work in education. One of the items that allowed me to do this was the benefits. I also might have made a different choice if I knew that these would be reduced. Your argument ring hollow.

  • Old Prosecutor

    As we country folks say – THAT DOG DON’T HUNT

    You and your colleagues are playing games. Voters were pissed off by the 62% pay raise. Many of you “first timers” ran on an explicit or implicit platform of repealing that raise. Since you got elected, however, here is what the legislature has done (1) start by trying to ignore the issue entirely – the voters got angrier (2) Then try to mollify the voters by giving up the automatic increase – that didn’t work, the voters got angrier (3) now trying to give up 15% and keep the other 47% increase. The voters will get even angrier. Its time to give up the games and repeal the who;e increase or otherwise the legislators will not have to worry about pay in 4 years because they will be out of office.

    Further more the excuses you offer are the height of hypocrisy. Your first argument can be restated this way – “had we known that the voters actually expected us to keep our campaign promise to repeal the pay raise, we wouldn’t have run” – Pathetic

    As to your second argument – a hell of a lot of state workers gave up good paying private sector jobs for the benefits and retirement the state promised. Your argument bears as much weight with we voters as the arguments of the state workers bore with the legislature.

    Finally any person would be glad to give up 15% of their salary if you gave them a 62% raise first. Some pain you are sharing!

  • I think what rep. Hubbard was trying to say, and he can correct me if I’m wrong, is that he would support the repeal if the leadership would even force a vote. The problem is that first time representatives are enjoying the money too much. That includes my new representative Mark Tuggle if he is reading.

  • Oscar Underwood

    I was proud to support Joe Hubbard when he ran. I am even prouder to support him now.

    He is very much in his family tradition of producing great leaders for Alabama. Those figures — Judge John Godbold, General Will Hill Tankersley, and Senator Lister Hill — would be/must be as proud of him as his constituents are.

  • Concerned, you are exactly right. Thanks for the clarification. As I have posted elsewhere on this site, I fully support repealing the payraise. It’s the right thing to do. Period.

    As I’ve noted elsewhere, I have little control over whether the repeal legislation ever sees the House floor; that decision is in the hands of the leadership. That’s why I took matters into my own hands by prorating my salary by the same 15% as the General Fund. I have learned that some of my colleagues in the House have joined me in that effort, and I commend them for doing so.

    With respect to the other comments, I think I may not have been clear in my post. I wasn’t defending the excuses given by some for not repealing the payraise. I was saying that many of us make sacrifices to serve, and that DOES NOT insulate us from making further sacrifices as every other state employee has.

    I agree with Old Prosecutor. This issue must be addressed head-on. Nothing less will suffice. Until the repeal legislation comes up for a vote, all I can do is prorate my salary, encourage public discourse on the issue in forums such as these (thanks, Danny), and introduce legislation of my own on the issue, which should be ready next week. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, if there’s something more I can do, I certainly welcome the suggestions.

  • Jay Croft

    SuzyK, I’m not sure what you mean by saying that state, county and city workers are “except.” Except what?

    My wife is a State worker and proud of it. She puts in a full day’s work and is on call for emergencies. She has gone to her office on weekends when there’s work that needs to be done. And she hasn’t had a pay raise in three years. HIring has largely been frozen and her place of work is seriously understaffed.

    Sure, there is waste in local, state and federal governments. It’s the nature of any organization of any size–governmental, private, charitable. We can attempt to reduce the waste but it always will be there to some degree.

    Instead of carping about government workers, why not focus on attracting good people to public-service jobs?

  • jpo

    Suzyk,

    What do you have to be unhappy about here? Joe not only agrees with your position and is willing as a freshmen to call out your hypocritical party, he’s offering a compromise that is totally and completely fair and makes great sense–cut the legislature by the amount we’re cutting the budget. AND JOE DIDN’T TAKE THE PAY INCREASE!! This is a guy who has kids to think about.

  • Mike Hubbard

    You are a fine Christian man. I am going to appoint you to a committee to study this pay raise issue. Proud to call you a friend.
    Mike

  • au1977

    Demos we need a pay raise!

    Repus we got a pay raise because of the Demos, got elected because they said it was wrong, but now will not give it back like they said they would.

    What’s the difference between the two????

    At least the Demos had the GUTS/BALLS to get it in the first place. Beason you can’t have it both ways. Stand up like a man!
    THIS IS NOT A DEAD ISSUE NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU WHISH IT WAS!!!

  • Larry

    Joe,

    You say you are opposed to the pay raise and would vote to do away with it. Almost every other legislator says the same thing. So why haven’t you sponsored a bill to do just that?

    It’s not enough to simply say that you oppose the pay raise and would vote to be rid of it. Do something about it or admit that you’re a hypocrit like the rest of your comrades in both parties.

    Also, jpo seems to think you didn’t take the pay raise. So that the record is clear, did you take the 62% pay increase like the rest of the legislators?

  • Old Prosecutor

    Rep. Hubbard – you requested suggestions, here is one. If you can voluntarily give up 15% of your pay, you can voluntarily give up the entire 62% raise.

    Therefore on Tuesday, announce that you are voluntarily giving up the entire raise and challenge your colleagues to do the same.

  • Rep. Mike Hubbard, I don’t believe a study committee is warranted.

    The people have spoken and they have done so frequently and with conviction.

    The pay raise should be repealed. Completely.

    It’s a part-time job with full time pay.

    And the people do not agree with the argument of “I had to give up a private sector job that paid more to serve Alabama.” If the private sector is more lucrative, then many of you should have stayed there.

    That is not a sound reason to the average Alabamian, sir.

  • chad ginn

    You knew what the pay was when you started and ran for the office.I have been given this same argument when i complained about the low salaries that police officer’s get in this state.so yeah,that dog won’t hunt!The other argument i hear is it’s only “such and such” amount or i’ll let them cut my 15% to match the state budget.WE’RE NOT STUPID!!!!Most,if not all of you have already made your money or make enough money off your previous white collar job,(attorney,doctor,business owner) that the state pay you get doesn’t and didn’t really matter to start with,you wanted the power! Don’t give us this poor,humble,raised on the family farm bullshit like every other politician has.You had a job that paid enough for you to call your other wealthy friends, that you are already taking care of,(ie marshal county judge appointee that’s never been in a courtroom)and raise the ungodly amounts of money that a regular blue collar well-intentioned common sense Alabamian could not to get elected, whining up to people and convincing them that you were really going down there to take care of them,NOW DO IT!!!!!Oh and is it a coincidence that you are a politician in Alabama and your last name is Hubbard???

  • Carolyn

    To those of you complaining about state workers not having a pay raise and/or having a reduction in your benefits, I say welcome to the real world! The private sector has been dealing with this economic contraction for 4 years. You haven’t. What percentage of private workers do you think have gotten a pay raise in the past 3 years? What percentage do you think have had an increase in how much they pay for insurance? What percentage are now unemployed? Save your complaining for your own water cooler – we don’t want to hear it.

  • Hawk

    Many legislators have to give up better paying private sector jobs to serve this state. It has always been a problem keeping good public sector workers because they can make much more in the private sector. The legislator and our new Governor made it clear, by dropping the DROP program, that they don’t want to keep good teachers in the state. I guess that the people don’t want to keep good legislators also. Do we not want the best of the best to represent us?

    I heard that the new majority is also pushing to end the session early. Hence, they have pushed through legislation, without ample review, that could end up being unconstitutional. The Gov. amended the end of the DROP program because it could be unconstitutional. The voter ID bill is another, though the state is trying to cover its self with the state ID program. It’s going to cost $250,000 the first year. Where is the up roar over that money? Last but not least, the immigration bill. Arizona’s immigration bill was declared unconstitutional once again by 9th circuit just last week. I mean, come on! The people may not like undocumented workers(if we didn’t have them our economy would collapse) but does it have to come at a cost of being labeled as the state that pushes through unconstitutional bills to end the session early and get a pay raise? Any buyers remorse for the new majority yet?

    I commend you Rep. Hubbard for bringing up this issue. I know that it is a very hard issue to bring to the people. I think that giving up the 15%, the same as the General Fund, is making a nice statement. I don’t know your voting record but I doubt that you have voted for any of these unconstitutional bills. I am sure that you being a freshman Rep., you don’t want the session to end early either. I will say that I wish that you would take the 15% and donate it to charity but I know for some people that just isn’t enough.

  • Quick clarification, my name is JOE Hubbard, not MIKE. I am not the Speaker of the House; I am a newly elected Representative to a Montgomery House District.

    Old Pros, if I could, I would announce Tuesday that I am serving voluntarily. Public service is important to me, not because I want power or because I’m part of a political dynasty, as Chad implies; public service is a calling, and a calling should never be a source of profit.

    Chad, if I could serve without pay I would; not because, as you suggest, I “have already made [my] money or make enough money off [my] previous white collar job.” I have a wife, a 2 and a 1/2 year-old son, and a daughter on the way, all of whom I am working very hard to support both as a legislator and as a solo-practitioner attorney. Because I have to shut down my law practice for a substantial part of the year (and am prohibited by the new ethics laws from taking many of the kinds of cases I once specialized in), I can’t afford to give up the legislative salary that was in place when I was elected.

    Which brings me to another point. I have not taken a single raise since I’ve been in office. I refused the only raise that was offered me. That 62% payraise in 2007 was not a payraise to me; it was the salary when I took office. If I had been in office in 2007, I would have voted against it and turned it down.

    I completely understand the frustration of the voters after promises were made to repeal a self-serving raise, and nothing is being done about it, especicially when good people are losing their jobs. That is why, when I have the opportunity to do so, I will vote to repeal the 2007 payraise. That is also why I have voluntarily given up 15% of my salary in an effort to share the pain felt by the budget cuts and begin the process of restoring credibility to this body. That may not be enough for some people, but it is a step in the right direction. And it’s a step I hope all my colleagues will join me in taking.

  • MtgyAU

    Some on here need to work on their math skills. Reducing the post-raise number by 15% doesn’t mean he has 47% more to go. You’re using the wrong number to get your percentages.

  • Old Prosecutor

    To Rep Hubbard – your dog still ain’t hunting. If you can voluntarily give up part of your salary (the 15%), you can give up the whole 62% raise. I am eagerly awaiting your explanation as to why you can’t do this.

    To Mtgy AU – I am always amazed how some people want to ignore the major issue to nit pick a comment. Wrap your self proclaimed math skills around this: you have two options (1) you can receive $100.00 per week or (2) that $100.00 will be raised by 62% if you then give up 15% of the total amount. Which would you choose? I may not be a math major but #2 (which is what some. BUT NOT ALL, of the legislators are trying to do) gets you more money.

  • Elbert

    Old Prosecutor, Mr. Hubbard did explain why he can’t give up his entire salary (or the “pay raise” the previous legislature put into place). He said he has a wife and two children to support. He gave up working in a law firm to working on his own. He incurs a lot of expenses while serving in the legislature – and not as many as those who live far away from Montgomery do. Many legislators travel a lot farther and have to stay in hotels while there. I may be wrong, but I think these expenses come out of their salary packages.

    I say all that to say this. Yes, the 62% pay raise was a bit much and at a terrible time. But I want the best and brightest serving in the legislature b/c they make big decisions that impact all of us. You live in a fantasy land if you think people can do the jobs of legislators for free or for $30,000 minus all the expenses they incur. I’d like to say that “duty” was enough to motivate someone to run for public office, but the fact is these men and women who sacrifice (and many do sacrifice) to serve in public office have families to support and bills to pay just like the rest of us. Let’s stop expecting from our officials what many of us would never do ourselves – work for free!

  • Old prosecutor

    Elbert – I would simply point out that your arguments ring equally true for all state employees, not just legislators. Mr. Hubbard and his colleagues have dismissed your arguments out of hand in cutting state employees. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

    Further it is the height of hypocrisy to run on a platform of repealing the pay raise and then refuse to even consider it.

    And if you think we have elected the “best and brightest” in this legislature – either you are the one in fantasy land or else God help Us, the gene pool is really low in this state.

  • Elbert

    Old Prosecutor, I actually agree with you on each point you just made except that I think you are being too harsh on Rep. Joe Hubbard and not hard enough perhaps on Speaker Mike Hubbard. I hope the good readers do know the difference between the freshman Democratic member of the House (and author of this thread) and the powerful Republican Speaker of the House who has more say in whether or not the pay raise is repealed.

    I do not think that we have elected “the best and brightest” in every House and Senate distict, no. I was making the point that we need to offer a salary package that will encourage the best and brightest to run. Running is one thing. Winning is another. Voters have put some pretty unqualified people in office this term. There is no doubt about that in my mind. Some of the new Republicans didn’t spend any money or campaign; they just put their name on the ballot and won. That holds true for even some local races too. Now these folks are making laws and policies that impact us every day. Sad.

  • Woody

    Elbert and Oscar: With respect, are you two part of Rep. Hubbard’s self-proclaimed “family dynasty”? You both sound as if you could be.

  • illrember

    Anyone want to point out that Representative JOE Hubbard’s wife is a state employee? Therefore, his family is taking the 15% cut (twice). He has said, though it would be difficult financially, he is willing to repeal the pay raise (that HE did not vote in). I appreciate him taking a stand and having a willingness to hurt his own finances when he doesn’t have to.

    Carolyn- why are you on here bashing state employees for being upset about the lack of a raise, increases in both insurance costs and retirement, and paycuts? So proud that “you” in the “real world” have been experiencing it for years. However, you don’t think the legislators should take the same cut? As usual, you’re just on here to bash anyone who isn’t a right wing slave. It’s ridiculous. Your argument has no merit here. These PUBLIC SERVANTS are willing to do a job that you and your republican friends are clearly too good to do each day, and they were willing to do it for better benefits and a lower income. Now we are taking both. Stand with them and say that a 62% pay raise is WRONG.

  • MtgyAU

    I think getting the percentages correct is important because the entire 62% shouldn’t be repealed. If it is, that means we’ll be paying legislators the same thing they were making in 1991, which is absurd.

  • Don

    The National Conference of State Legislatures classifies our legislature as a hybrid legislature, meaning that members say that their legislative work requires them to spend more than two-thirds of the time being legislators that would be required for a full time job.

    The NCSL @ http://www.ncsl.org/programs/press/2004/backgrounder_fullandpart.htm shows that, on average, legislators in hybrid legislatures spend 70% of their time, WHICH INCLUDES TIME SPENT CAMPAIGNING FOR RE-ELECTION, being legislators and that they are compensated by less than $36,000 per year.

    Compare that with what our legislators receive and then compare that with what the average full time worker in Alabama is paid.

  • Old Prosecutorl

    illrember – under the merit system state employees do not get their pay cut. They either get laid off (a 100% cut)or keep the same salary. This would only change if the legislature passes the furlough bill (which would be a pay cut) which they have not done. The cuts I was referring to was in increased insurance premiums and retirement costs.

    Elbert – I am well aware Joe Hubbard is a freshman in the minority party. So what? If you really believe in something, you take a stand. What you do not is start off saying “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). ” I elect legislators to take a stand and if they are too frightened to do so, they need to resign. Further I am equal opportunity – I am going after Republican and Democrat legislators on this issue.

    MtgyAU – I believe pay should be based on performance and in that light, you are right. To pay this bunch of hypocrites at 1991 levels would be absurdly overpaying them. Also chew on this. The 15% proration is of agencies budgets for the entire year. It appears the voluntary 15% the legislators are offering is only of their pay for the last 6 months (if this is incorrect I invite Rep Hubbard to set the record straight). Now, I am not a math whiz like you but that sure ain’t 15% of their yearly salary in my neck of the woods.

  • Jug

    I hope & pray that the Tea Party folks are watching, waiting, and simmering. I seriously doubt the democrats have a chance to take back the legislature, so the only hope I see is that those that are “pigeonholing” the repeal legislation face stiff primary challenges. I’d be willing to donate my $$$ to see to it.

  • Elbert

    Woody, I’m not a part of any “family dynasty.” Not related to Rep. Hubbard at all. Just an interested and concerned citizen.

    Prosecutor, Didn’t mean to imply that you didn’t know the difference between JOE Hubbard and MIKE Hubbard. I was really making the point for those who may be reading these comments but not actually participating in the discussion. There seemed to be a little confusing earlier in the thread. It was really one of those, “If you’re just tuning in…” kind of things. Not intended for you. I’m glad that you are being “fair and balanced” on the pay increase issue. You should go to work for FOXNews. :)

  • MtgyAU

    OP:

    One thing we agree on is that many of these people ran on repealing the pay raise, and it’s pathetic that they are already backtracking. If they want to study what a “fair” compensation amount would be, repeal the raise THEN come up with a new number. Heck, I’d rather reduce the amount of time they spend “legislating” than up their pay. Same with US Rep’s – the less they’re doing the better off we are.

  • illrember

    OP: A pay cut is a pay cut. The increased expenses to health insurance and retirement will be a pay cut for people who haven’t had a raise in years. Education employees haven’t had a COLA since 07, and will see these cuts on top of that. Sad day in this state…

  • MtgyAU

    illrember:

    That’s no different from what most in the private sector have been through.

  • illrember

    MtgyAU-

    Most people in the private sector make more $$ and didn’t choose to educate the youth, protect us, save us from fires, etc.

  • Carolyn

    I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. They should repeal the entire payraise. That’s entirely too much money for a part-time job and they should feel the same pain all the rest of us are and have been.

  • MtgyAU

    illrember:

    While I appreciate all those things, it doesn’t eliminate the reality of the current economy and whether or not we can afford to provide the same level of benefits.

  • Rep. JOE Hubbard,

    I am quite clear on who I was addressing and am not confused.

    Comment #10 was from Rep. MIKE Hubbard, which is who I was responding to, sir.

    I would have thought that would have been obvious, apparently not.

  • John Merrill

    I didn’t have anything to do with the payraise that was passed in 2007. I didn’t get elected until 2010.

    I stated when I was running that I don’t believe that any legislative body should be able to raise or lower the salary while those individuals are serving their term of office.

    It is my opinion that payraises should only be in effect for the next folks that come into office. My reasoning is that when people run for office they need to know what the compensation is so they can plan for their household budget.

    I rejected the automatic COLA and I have voluntarily reduced my legislative expense allowance compensation (commonly refered to as the salary) by 15% after Governor Bentley declared 15% proration in the general fund budget. I know all Alabamians are hurting and my personal sacrifice demonstrates that I understand that fact.

    As I promised when I announced my candidacy on July 13, 2009, I voluntarily left my job with the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education after my election because I do not believe in “double dipping.” The law we passed in December would have allowed me to continue through November 2014 but I left on December 31, 2010.

    I know of at least 3 other House members that had to leave their jobs after the election because they were not able to continue with their previous employer and serve at the same time.

    I finally found another job (with a bank – federal, not state) on February 15 and I am honored to have a job that allows me to serve in the legislature and to continue to work in Montgomery and here in Tuscaloosa too.

  • Seriously?

    Are you serious, Rep. Merrill?

    You are entitled to the payraise because you quit your job? “I know all Alabamians are hurting and my personal sacrifice demonstrates that I understand that fact.” How gracious and sanctimonious of you.

    At least the Dem supports repeal.

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