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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Senators propose pay cut if budgets goes into proration

A bipartisan group of state senators said Tuesday they support a resolution that, beginning with the next state budgets, would cut the pay of state legislators equal to the level of budget cuts declared by the governor.
Some Republicans who slammed a 2007 pay raise that lawmakers voted for themselves do not believe the resolution goes far enough.
Senators who support the resolution said the measure was intended to encourage legislators to try to accurately balance the budgets.
Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, announced Monday that he was immediately declaring 3 percent proration in the current education budget and would soon declare 15 percent proration in the current General Fund budget, the source of funds for most non-education functions of state government including Medicaid, prisons, and public safety.
State law requires the budget to be balanced so the governor must declare proration, or across the board cuts, to balance revenue and spending.
If the resolution proposed on Tuesday passes, lawmakers' pay would be cut at the rate of proration beginning with the next budget year, which starts Oct. 1. The proposal would not affect the current fiscal year.
Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, said he proposed the resolution because unrealistic budget forecasts hurt agencies and state employees, but legislators are not feeling the pain.
As a small businessman, Sanford said "when my employees feel the pain, I feel the pain."
He said this would be an incentive for lawmakers to be more cautious when assembling the budgets.
Lawmakers were asked why not make the resolution effective this budget year.
"There (are) many people in these chambers who didn't have anything to do with these budgets," Sanford said.
Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, a former budget committee chairman, said the resolution would give more accountability to the budget process.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said he does not feel the support is there to roll back legislative pay levels to 2007, when lawmakers passed a more than 60 percent pay raise for themselves as one of their first acts of business. He believes the issue could bring the Senate to a stalemate. Marsh said any legislator who wants to turn down their pay raise can do so.
But some legislators want the pay level taken back to the 2007 level and want to remove the automatic cost of living increase that lawmakers included in that increase.
Republican Sens. Gerald Dial of Lineville and Bryan Taylor of Prattville want to roll back the pay increase.
Taylor said he has not seen a draft of the resolution, but understands "where some of my colleagues are coming from, particularly the freshmen." He said some of them took pay cuts and took jobs in the private sector to run.
"Many of us were not here in 2007," Taylor said.
But Taylor said he continues to support a repeal of the pay increase.
"I think the pay raise in 2007 was wrong," he said.
Taylor said any resolution cutting back pay "is a step in the right direction."
Marsh said the joint support for the resolution sets a good tone for the legislative session, which started Tuesday.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Location: Montgomery, AL, United States

South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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