During the campaign, a number of them criticized their Democrat predecessors for voting in 2007 to give legislators a 61 percent pay raise, implying that they would not have voted for the increase and leading some state residents to infer that the newly elected Republicans would not accept the money.
That inference, whether justified or not, has turned out to be false. The Legislature not only is not turning down the extra money, it is systematically killing every attempt to repeal or reduce the raise.
The pay raise was an easy target for differentiating GOP candidates from the Democrats, but they knew all along that legislators on both sides wanted and needed the extra pay.
According to Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston, many of the first-time House and Senate members ran expecting the higher pay. Marsh is one of only five legislators in the House and Senate combined who turned down the raise.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Scott Beason of Gardendale is not one of them. Beason, whose district includes western St. Clair County, is one of the few Republicans who supported the raise when it was introduced. Beason pointed out that legislators have to pay their own travel expenses and they do not have a state retirement plan or health insurance. He also said the raise enabled middle-class candidates to run because they could afford to take the time off from their jobs.
The truth is, to have true representation in Montgomery, we need people from all walks of life — not just those wealthy enough to live on their pocket money while the Legislature is in session.
Most of the state senators and many House members have, however, refused the annual 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase that came with the 2007 raise. In light of the current proration of the state budget and education funding, that’s the right thing to do.