The Birmingham News on legislative pay raises:

Four years ago, it was easy for Republicans to make a stink when state legislators approved a 62 percent pay raise for themselves.

For one thing, the raise was, indeed, smelly. It was among the first acts of lawmakers elected in 2006, and it passed initially on a voice vote. Only after Gov. Bob Riley vetoed the raise were legislators forced to give recorded votes. Because enough of them voted to override Riley’s objection, legislators’ pay jumped from less than $31,000 a year to $49,500.

Better yet, Democrats were running the show. Republicans were free to rail about the reigning party’s greed and arrogance — all while reaping the bounty of the fattened paychecks. (In fairness, this wasn’t the universal response. Some legislators of both parties refused to accept the pay raise. And at least one Republican, state Sen. Scott Beason, took the pay raise but had enough principle to vote for it and publicly defend his position.)

But all that was then. Now, Republicans have been given an opportunity to be in charge of the State House for the first time in more than a century. That means they have an opportunity to roll back legislator pay, which is now up around $52,600 annually because of automatic increases.

Unfortunately, based on the noise coming from Republicans, a pay cut isn’t sounding too likely. There is some talk about maybe ending the automatic pay increases going forward. And maybe making it more difficult in the future for legislators to bump up their own salaries. But repealing the 2007 raise? Let’s just say we sense resistance. ...

Being a legislator in Alabama is a big responsibility, yes, but it is still a part-time job. Worse, for this one part-time job, Alabama’s elected officials are pulling down more in pay than the full-time wages of many of the families they represent. In 2008, the median income for an Alabama household was less than $43,000 a year. It’s outrageous for legislators to make 25 percent more for a part-time job. ...

Republicans talked the talk, using the pay raise to bash Democrats and to campaign against them. Now, they’re in charge, and they need to do more than talk. Will they walk the walk? From the sounds of it, taking a walk is more like it.

                                                                                      — The Associated Press

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