It had been a long time since legislators received a raise, and many lawmakers felt the increased compensation was deserved.
However, when legislators gave themselves a 61 percent bump plus an annual cost of living increase — instead of a modest increase, or even an increase staggered over a number of years — all support for a raise disappeared.
How, people asked, could legislators be so unfeeling as to raise the pay of what many constituents felt was a part-time job to a level well beyond what the average Alabamian earned in a 40-hour week?
Republicans who challenged incumbent Democrats made much of this. Now that the GOP has taken control of both houses, observers have been waiting to see what the victors would do.
The wait is over.
Just reported out of committee is a bill that would tie legislators’ pay to the median household income in the state. Under the new calculation, a legislator who lives more than 50 miles from Montgomery will receive an average of $46,180 in salary, per diem and mileage.
This is down from the $53,388 the average legislator earned after the pay raise. Though that is still above the $40,474 that was the Alabama median household income in 2010, it is a step in the right direction. As the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, put it, the compensation of lawmakers should be tied to the “well-being of the people we serve.”
Yes, there was a lot of populist pandering in the campaign against those who voted themselves a raise, but sometime even populist pandering has merit.
A companion to this bill is a proposal that would prohibit legislators from raising their pay in their current term in office and would require a two-thirds majority, roll-call vote in order for a raise to pass.
Both of these measures would require a constitutional amendment — one more example of how the state Constitution hamstrings rapid and needed reforms. Nevertheless, this page supports both bills and will support the amendments that will follow.