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Chloe Brittain, 3, of Gadsden holds a sign while attending a rally with her parents in Montgomery, protesting the 62 percent raise state lawmakers gave themselves.
AP photo by Rob Carr
Chloe Brittain, 3, of Gadsden holds a sign while attending a rally with her parents in Montgomery, protesting the 62 percent raise state lawmakers gave themselves.

Legislators
get pay hike

Both houses override Riley’s veto of 62% increase; salaries go from $30,710 to $49,500

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature voted Tuesday to override the governor’s veto and give House and Senate members a 62 percent pay raise. It was their first in 16 years, but sparked an angry statehouse protest rally.

The House, without any debate, voted 57-41 to override the governor’s veto. A few minutes later, the Senate voted 20-15 to do the same, with only two senators going to the microphone to speak against it.

Lawmakers supporting the raise said it was needed because they had not received a raise in compensation since 1991, but opponents said it was excessive.

“Our expenses have gone up dramatically,” said Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, when asked why he voted for the increase.

The raise would hike the compensation of lawmakers from $30,710 to $49,500 a year. Depending on whether special sessions are called, the raise amounts to an increase of 61 percent or 62 percent. The $18,790 a year increase will also apply to the pay of the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House.

At the Statehouse rally, Rae Bullington of Boaz said she doesn’t normally get involved in political issues, but was so upset by the pay raise vote she had to speak out.

“It’s wrong. I think it was crooked. We’ve had it with them,” Bullington said.

The sponsor of the pay raise resolution, House Speaker Pro Tem Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, told members they could return the raise to the state treasury if they believe it is excessive.

House Minority Leader Rep. Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, predicted that members who voted for the raise would “regret it” when they face reelection in 2010.

“I don’t think the public will forget it. At least this vote was on the record and there’s no way to hide it,” Hubbard said.

With some exceptions, the vote mostly fell along party lines, with Democrats supporting it and Republican lawmakers opposing the increase.

Riley sent his veto to the Legislature after protesters held a rally Tuesday morning at the statehouse to voice outrage over the pay increase.

Riley said he feels most people in Alabama believe the amount “excessive.”

He said he doesn’t question that lawmakers, who haven’t received a raise since 1991, deserve more money. But he said it should be smaller and take effect over several years.

But one House member, Rep. Lesley Vance, D-Phenix City, said he thinks legislators deserve the raise.

“We have helped everybody else get raises,” said Vance, referring to raises lawmakers have approved in recent years for teachers, state employees and judges. “If we continue to not allow having an incentive to serve here we are going to have nobody but the filthy rich over here.”

Senate President Pro Tem Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove, said Tuesday was the first time he had voted for a pay raise in his 32 years in the Legislature.

“We don’t need government to get to where only the wealthy can afford to serve. We’ve got people now in the Legislature who can no longer afford to serve financially,” Mitchem said.

The House and Senate passed the raise on March 8 by unrecorded voice votes, but had to take a recorded vote to override the veto.

Riley sent the veto shortly after more than 200 people gathered outside the Statehouse to protest the raise.

The protest was organized by Matt Murphy, a talk show host on Birmingham radio station WYDE.

One protester, 21-year-old Chris Wilson of Montevallo, said he makes less than $36,000 as a truck driver at a strip coal mine, sometimes working more than 60 hours a week. He said he doesn’t understand why lawmakers should make more for a part-time job.

“They don’t deserve this. We have one of the worst Legislatures in the country. You have to earn a pay raise,” Wilson said.

June Lawrimore of Falkville called the raise “ludicrous.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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