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.
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — 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.
House and Senate records show that 45 of Alabama’s 140 state lawmakers now make $53,438 in legislative pay in a typical year, during which no special legislative session is held. Other legislators have refused previous pay raises and make less now. The automatic cost-of-living increase that would be implemented in April would push the annual pay for those 45 to $55,046, a raise of 3 percent.
Two of those legislators, Birmingham Democrats Sen. Rodger Smitherman and Rep. John Rogers, said they intend to accept the raise because of the rising costs of gasoline, lodging in Montgomery and other work-related expenses.
”If the cost of living didn’t increase, we wouldn’t get it,” Rogers said.
Smitherman said, ”I’m going to accept it because of the increased expenditures.” He said he stopped for gas recently and premium gasoline was $4 per gallon.
House and Senate records also show that 73 lawmakers now make $52,646 in legislative pay in a typical year. An increase of $1,608 would be a 3.1 percent increase. Those 73 legislators declined last year’s automatic cost-of-living increase of $66 a month.
Some legislators voluntarily have cut their pay to levels at or below $30,710 in a typical year, the amount a typical lawmaker made before the Legislature passed a 61 percent legislative pay raise in 2007. The resolution approving the raise included a provision to annually boost a lawmaker’s monthly expense allowance to reflect increases in a federal consumer price index.
That monthly allowance makes up most of the pay for serving in the Legislature. Lawmakers also get a salary and another expense allowance when they’re in session.
Lawmakers could change or replace the pay-raise resolution, but have not.
Legislators who make $30,710 a year or less in a typical year include: Sens. Dick Brewbaker, R-Pike Road; Ben Brooks, R-Mobile; Del Marsh, R-Anniston; Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville; and Reps. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, and Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, House and Senate records show.
Some other legislators have volunteered to make less than most of their peers but more than those six. A few lawmakers, such as Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, the House leader, make more than most legislators because of their leadership positions. Hubbard’s legislative pay is $70,856 in a typical year, House records show.
Brewbaker and DeMarco in interviews said they would decline the scheduled cost-of-living adjustment.
”It just doesn’t seem right for legislators to take COLAs, or certainly take a big pay increase, when state employees certainly aren’t getting them,” Brewbaker said.
State agency employees last got a cost-of-living salary increase, of 3.5 percent, in October 2008. Public school teachers last got a COLA, of 7 percent, in October 2007.
DeMarco said he wanted nothing to do with the 2007 pay raise, including its automatic cost-of-living adjustment. ”I think it hurt the credibility of the Legislature,” he said.
The 2007 pay raise resolution raised a typical lawmaker’s annual legislative pay from $30,710 to $49,550. Opponents in 2007 said the raise was way too big. Supporters said lawmakers hadn’t had a raise since 1991.
Many lawmakers hold jobs other than their legislative positions. Many own their own businesses, and many are lawyers, for instance.
The median annual household income in Alabama in 2006 through 2010 was $42,081, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Half of state households had more and half had less