If teacher pay raises are still met in some quarters with comments about educators being "only" nine-month employees, how much sympathy will there be for legislators who gather for about a third of that time each year? Besides their current base salary and per diem pay during legislative sessions and out-of-session committee meetings, lawmakers also receive a $6,000 unvouchered annual expense allowance.We agree that after 20 years, lawmakers are due a raise. Just not to $50,000.
Were not categorically opposed to a modest legislative pay raise, once its properly debated and justified in the normal legislative process. But the size of this raise, the provision for automatic increases and the late-in-the-session rush to pass this bill should concern everyone.Lawmakers and the governor should take the weekend to calm down, listen to their constituents and think about what theyre about to do.
The governor is ceding the high ground on this issue. If he vetoes the pay raise bill and lawmakers suddenly change course and oppose his legislation, the reason will be apparent. Even by letting the raise become law without his signature, he has sunk to the level of politics that has mired meaningful reform in the state for decades.Our business is reporting on business, and this is bad business.Jindal and lawmakers were just starting to remove the tarnish of political expediency that has sullied Louisianas image for generations. This latest black eye may be indelible.
Around 8:30 a.m. this morning, Republican state Rep. Page Cortez was in Baton Rouge getting ready for the morning that promises high drama in the Legislature. I just walked through the Chamber, and the Speaker is polling members, says Cortez. If I were a handicapper, Id say its a 50-50 shot [that the legislator pay raise passes].Lafayettes Cortez has been opposed to the pay raise which would triple lawmakers' base salaries from $16,800 annually to $50,700 annually since it was first introduced. How can you vote yourself a raise when youve been here two months and you knew what you were getting into when you ran for office? he says. Cortez notes that most of the local delegation members that hes talked to including Republican Reps. Don Trahan and Jonathan Perry, Democratic Reps. Taylor Barras and Simone Champagne and independent Joel Robideaux are also against the raise. But Cortez says the inferno of media criticism and taxpayer outrage over the bill still might not be enough for it to fail. Its as close a vote as it can be, and I think it might come down to one vote, he says. And its not along party lines, either. I think its the more conservative pockets of the state that are most opposed to it.
Later this morning: what the bloggers are saying...