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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Marsh makes big cuts to President Pro Tem Office

There’s a new sheriff in town and that means there will be new rules in the Alabama Senate, especially when it comes to spending.

New Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh is making some changes to long-standing practices of the Senate and he’s starting with the office he now heads.

Marsh announced Wednesday that he has significantly reduced the staff of the Office of the President Pro Tem – from more than 40 to 4 – and he has plans to continue to reduce the cost of that office.

Marsh said he was confident that a leaner team would be able to serve the needs of the Senate and the taxpayers.

“I believe it is critical that each agency and branch of government review their budgets and tighten their belts, just as the people of Alabama and private businesses are forced to do during lean economic times,” he said in a press release.

The Pro Tem’s office has a budget of approximately $3 million, and during fiscal 2010 more than $1.83 million paid the salaries of more than 40 people.

“There were times that no one in the Senate knew who some of the Pro Tem employees were, and I can promise you one thing – our staff will be visible and accessible at all times,” Marsh said. “My predecessors may have needed each and every one of those staffers to effectively run the office, but I can assure the taxpayers that they are getting a bargain compared to the $2 million that was spent on Pro Tem staff salaries last year.”

The Pro Tem’s office has hired the following staffers: Philip Bryan, chief of staff, Ryan Cantrell, policy and research analyst, Molly Middlebrooks, senate liaison, and Gale Dunlap, part-time accounting/bookkeeper. Chief of Staff Philip Bryan estimates that the office payroll would be reduced from $130,000 a month to about $15,000 a month.

In addition to the staffing cuts, Marsh also has issued new guidelines for what expenditures will be allowed out of the Pro Tem’s budget. Senate committee chairmen, who are now all Republicans, will have to turn in request prior to making purchases.

“We recognize that Senators have needs such as postage and other resources to assist them in communicating with their constituents, so we certainly want to allocate funds for those needs” Marsh said. “However, the culture that existed was one that had no accountability for these expenditures, and we felt that each member should have a budget – so when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Marsh also said that instead of giving each senator a blank check for expenditures, there would be a fix dollar amount allocated for each of the 35 senators. He said he believed it would force members to spend money on only the necessities, and not just a lot of amenities.

“I guess I’m just cheap,” Marsh said. “But I believe the taxpayers elected us to be good stewards of their hard earned money, and I hope they will recognize that the new Republican leadership is going to great lengths to do just that.”

-- posted by Markeshia Ricks

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