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Resolution increases pay for legislators

Compensation for Alabama legislators increased 3.8 percent April 1.

The 2007 resolution was one of the first actions taken by legislators when they took office. It was voted on and, when passed, it raised lawmakers' compensation by 62 percent. The resolution also required that their monthly compensation be reevaluated and adjusted every year.

Though it caused controversy at the time, the 2-year-old resolution received even more attention this year. The resolution included providing legislators with an automatic increase in monthly pay based on the cost of living and Consumer Price Index; their pay was raised by $150, boosting their compensation to $52,600 per year.

The increase in lawmakers' salaries concerns Alabama citizens who worry the extra money legislators will receive will come out of their pockets in the form of taxes.

Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office education head Jason Isbell said it will.

"Legislative compensation is paid using funds appropriated to the Alabama legislature," Isbell said. "Such funds are appropriated out of the State General Fund, which consists of revenue generated from certain taxes and fees levied by the state and marked for that fund."

Legislators' compensation now consists of the $4,108 monthly expense payment, plus $50 per day for the three days they meet each week. They also receive $10 per day seven days a week. They are able to receive even more if they must meet for a special session or if they serve on other committees.

Questions have been raised about the fairness of the increase, especially since legislators' part-time job compensation of $52,600 is significantly higher than the state's median household income of $40,596, according to the US Census Bureau.

Though the 2007 resolution was passed, a handful of legislators were not in favor of the pay increase at the time and still do not support the decision.

State Rep. Mac McCutcheon said he voted against the original pay increase.

"I cannot in good conscience ask the taxpayers of this state to give me a pay raise when the people that I represent are being asked to take pay cuts, and no pay raises, plus cut backs on working days," McCutcheon said.

McCutcheon said since the pay raise took place, he has given a portion of the extra money to his district.

"I could just give the money back to the people, but then I would take a risk of those monies, which could benefit my district, going somewhere else," McCutcheon said.

State Rep. Mike Ball was also against the compensation increase.

"I did not support the pay raise with the built-in annual cost of living increase," Ball said. "I believe it is unethical to use the powers of one's office to line one's own pockets."

Ball said he will put the money from his pay increase toward charitable giving.

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