Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

How Much Could Alabama Save By Not Paying Legislators?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, April 30, 2015

UPDATE: Sunday, 14 June 2015 – Found following main body

Today (Thursday, 30 April 2015) the Alabama State Senate knocked off at 11:30, and reconvened 1PM. It’s also the final day of the Legislative Session for the week – they only work three days each week – Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

An hour and a half – that’s a nice, long lunch break for a wealthy man, a powerful man – not a working man. It’s pretty cushy for someone who works three days a week, only 30 days a year. Reckon how your boss would respond if you asked for a three-day work week and a 30-day work year?

How long do you get for lunch?

Most folks get 30 minutes.

The Alabama Senate gets THREE times longer than most working folks.

But then, excesses in Alabama state politics is nothing new.

Recall that – by law – the Alabama Legislature is limited to work <30 days/year (in a 105 day period) & for that privilege, citizens & taxpayers fork over $50K+/yr in pay & compensation to them – 35 in the Senate, and 105 in the House.
TOTAL=140 men (mostly) & women.

In stark contrast, New Mexico’s State Legislators are a Volunteer Legislature (they’re elected, yes, but unpaid), and during Session, by State Law receive a Daily Federal Per Diem, and Two-Way Mileage once during a session EXCLUSIVELY.

Legislative pay in Alabama has been a hot-button issue, particularly in recent years – and, it’s unnecessarily complicated. By State Constitutional Law, their “official” pay is $10/day. However… in addition to that, they get a $4308/month “expense” payment, in addition to $50/day three days week the legislature is in session… plus, mileage to and from their residence to the State Capitol in Montgomery. Excluding the mileage pay, the Annual Compensation for an Alabama Legislator is approximately $53,496/year. That excludes pay during Special Sessions.

In 2007, the legislature voted to increase their monthly “expense” account by $1,608, which amounted to a 62% increase, as well as to give themselves an Annual “Cost Of Living” Increase of 3% to the same, about which much of the state’s constituency was aghast. In February 2012, the Birmingham News reported that “The 2007 pay raise resolution raised a typical lawmaker’s annual legislative pay from $30,710 to $49,550. House and Senate records also show that 73 lawmakers now make $52,646 in legislative pay in a typical year. Each state lawmaker will get a pay raise of $1,608 per year starting in April unless he or she declines it in writing, Senate secretary Pat Harris and House of Representatives clerk Greg Pappas said.”

The Gadsden Times reported in February 2012 that, “In 2007, legislators increased their compensation 61 percent from $36,660 to $49,500. They also provided for automatic annual increases tied to the Consumer Price Index, which has boosted compensation to $52,646. When Republicans took control of the Legislature from Democrats in the 2010 election, some Republicans, including Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville), tried to repeal the 2007 raise, but their proposal went nowhere. Some lawmakers said they had run expecting the higher compensation and didn’t want to lower it during their four-year term.”

In April 2012, the Birmingham News reported that “Lawmakers currently earn about $53,388 and the compensation is mostly through expense allowances.”

Changes to the compensation package were strongly encouraged – such as through constitutional amendment to repeal the 61% increase the Legislature gave itself in 2007 and replace it with a salary tied to Alabama’s median household income, legislators getting the same travel expenses as state employees, and no travel reimbursement for trips within their legislative districts, such as attending town hall meetings and speaking to civil clubs.

However, nothing happened.

By eliminating Legislative pay (couched as “expense allowances”),
the State of Alabama could $ave well over $7.5 Million annually
by
not contributing to
The Good Ol’ Boys Club
and
enriching their private $lu$h fund$.
Only THEN would we see who’s truly interested in
helping the Citizens,
and bettering the
State of Alabama!

Just for the sake of comparison, take a look at the list below.

Alabama’s Legislators make more than legislators in 40 states:
Arizona
Arkansas
Colorado
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Carolina
North Dakota
Oklahoma
Oregon
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

UPDATE: Sunday, 14 June 2015

I emphasize and reiterate this main point:
Being an Alabama legislator is BY FAR! the BEST Part-Time job in ALL of America!

By law (the Alabama 1901 Constitution), legislators ONLY work 30 days/year (unless called into Special Session by the Governor), and when in Regular Legislative Session, only work 3 days/week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday).

And when they do meet on those three days, they often meet around 10AM, take a two, or three hour lunch break, then quit for the day around 2, or 3PM. Rarely do they ever continue meeting past 4, or 5PM. In essence, they’re lucky if they put in 3 hours of work a day.

For that, they’re paid in excess of $50,000 year (the majority of which is couched as “expense account” allowances – the 1901 State Constitution mandates a $10/day salary when in session). And then, on top of that, they’re paid Per Diem, and Mileage Expenses.

Is that cushy deal, or a cushy deal?

See also TWO OpEds on the matter:
A sensible legislative pay plan (editorial)
By John Peck, The Huntsville Times
on February 19, 2012 at 6:45 AM
-and-
Alabama lawmakers need to clean up the legislative pay reform bill and send a sensible, straightforward one to voters (Editorial)
By John Peck, The Huntsville Times
on April 24, 2012 at 8:30 AM, updated April 24, 2012 at 8:36 AM

Change in lawmaker compensation not showing big savings yet

By Mary Sell, Decatur Daily Montgomery Bureau
Sunday, June 14, 2015

MONTGOMERY — Most Alabama lawmakers are receiving less pay this year than they did in previous ones, but many are being reimbursed more for their travel expenses to and from the capital city.

In the Senate, total costs for legislators are up slightly, about $17,000 since a constitutional amendment cutting lawmakers’ pay by about $7,000 a year went into effect, said Secretary of the Senate Pat Harris.

“Most of the new cost is travel, which they are entitled to under the constitutional amendment,” he said last week.

When the amendment was passed, supporters said it would save $500,000 to about $1 million a year.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said last week it will take a full year to accurately judge the numbers and the impact of the new pay structure.

“I think (in the Senate) it will be a wash or a little bit of a savings,” Marsh said. “The rest of the year, you won’t have nearly the travel you had during the session.

“Some (senators) are receiving more compensation because of their distance from the Statehouse. I think it was the right approach. I think it is working well.”

From Nov. 5, 2014, through May, the 35 senators received $24,519.27 each in base pay.

The Senate now appears to be spending about $15,000 less each month on base pay, compared to last year.

But combined, the senators received almost $160,000 in in-state travel reimbursement; that’s compared to about $8,000 in 2014. The highest travel reimbursement amount, $7,180, went to the senator from Conecuh County in south Alabama.

There’s another new expense this year, Harris said. The state has paid $52,600 so far for senators’ Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax.

Year-over-year numbers weren’t available last week for the larger 105-member House, and Clerk Jeff Woodard said he wanted to see travel expenses from the end of the session earlier this month before he commented on possible savings.

Numbers from Woodard’s office show that from November through May, the 105 House members have received a total of $207,500 in overnight per diems and about $203,000 in mileage.

In March, April and May of the session, representatives from the Decatur area had between about $3,700 and $4,700 in expenses.

A spokeswoman for Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard said it’s too early to get definite data to compare.

Mileage costs have caught the attention of one local lawmaker.

“I have asked Secretary Harris to propose a revision to the reimbursement rules for legislative expenses that would better contain our costs,” said Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.

The regular session is over, but lawmakers are expected to be called back to Montgomery later this year for at least one special session in order to address the 2016 General Fund budget. A special session can be up to 12 legislative days over a 30-day period.

The Amendment

The amendment in 2012 that was approved by voters was a reaction to public criticism when legislators, led by Democrats, raised their pay by about 61 percent to $49,500 in 2007. The increase provided annual cost-of-living raises that pushed the maximum compensation to $53,388, though some lawmakers declined the raises or had cut their own pay.

In Morgan County, most lawmakers in recent years received about $49,296. Orr received $43,400 after a self-imposed pay cut a few years ago.

But the lawmakers weren’t getting reimbursed for most of their trips back and forth to Montgomery. The new rules tie lawmakers’ pay to the medium family income in Alabama — a little over $42,000 this year — and allow lawmakers who live 50 miles from Montgomery to receive overnight per diem at $75 per day for 45 days of the legislative session. All members can receive mileage at the same rate as state employees — 55 cents per mile.

2012 Opinion

The 2012 legislation was sponsored in the House by Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison. He said last week he hadn’t seen any numbers.

“I know that some legislators have been fussing at me that they haven’t been making as much money, so I guess it is (saving money),” he said.

Ball said he thinks there will be significant savings at the end of the year. But the real intent of the bill was to create a more reasonable pay structure.

“The whole purpose was to put some transparency in the process and make it reasonable,” Ball said. “Those of us who have a longer drive to Montgomery were getting compensated significantly less than those around Montgomery. The further you had to go, the less you were getting paid.”

An opinion column on Al.com attributed to Ball and then-Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, in 2012 said the measure would save about $1.1 million a year.

Ball said he thinks that over the course of the year, his pay, including travel reimbursement, will be down compared to 2014.

“Now, if the median household income increases, over time we will get paid more,” Ball said. “That’s our job, to help folks prosper. If folks don’t prosper, we shouldn’t.”

Mary Sell covers state government for The Decatur Daily.
She can be reached at MSell@DecaturDaily.com.
Follow on Twitter @DD_MarySell.

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One Response to “How Much Could Alabama Save By Not Paying Legislators?”

  1. jvlivs said

    Well, it’s like the Bible foretold, the world leaders are getting more and more greedier. Yet the common man-who’s the backbone of the economy-is barely getting enough to pay his bills let alone have a short lunch. Some jobs I’ve had, we had an hour. And I’ll tell ya, we were in much better shape for it, too. 30 minutes was just too short a time for lunch, which explains why most of us had to pack one, it would save some money, and racing against the clock at Burger King was really pushing it. And that list of Legislators that you posted, I’m surprised that Michigan isn’t on the list…

    Like

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