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7 state legislators refuse to accept 61% pay raise

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Seven legislators — all Republicans — have declined the 61 percent pay raise the Legislature gave itself, and several more from both parties say they are giving away their raises.

Republican Rep. Paul DeMarco of Homewood and Republican Sens. Larry Dixon of Montgomery, Hank Erwin of Montevallo, Ben Brooks of Mobile, Bradley Byrne of Fairhope, Del Marsh of Anniston and Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb have filed paperwork to reject the pay raise, according to legislative payroll officials.

The remaining 133 legislators are accepting the boost in annual compensation from $30,710 to $49,500 for a year when lawmakers use every meeting day in their regular session but have no special sessions.

Lawmakers have to pay their gas, room and meals out of that amount.

Erwin said Thursday he couldn't accept the raise because the Legislature didn't treat it like normal legislation. Instead, the Legislature passed the raise without debate and without a recorded vote.

"I think it was a violation of the trust of the people, and I couldn't take it," Erwin, a foundation director, said.

Smith, a banker, said she rejected the raise because residents of her Southeast Alabama district were upset about how the Legislature approved it.

DeMarco, a lawyer, concurred, saying, "I feel it best reflects the will of my district."

Cost of living

Advocates of the raise said the Legislature had not received an increase in compensation since 1991, and the amount was in line with cost of living increases since then.

The Legislature approved the raise without a recorded vote on March 8. Republican Gov. Bob Riley vetoed it, but the two houses overrode his veto on recorded votes March 20.

In the House, the sponsor of the pay raise, attorney Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, reminds members almost daily how they can file paperwork to reject the raise. He said it's hypocritical to criticize the raise and then accept the money.

"This gives those who preached loud and long a chance to live up to what they preached about," Newton said.

Several legislators said they are accepting the raise, but donating it to charitable organizations. House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard, an Auburn broadcasting executive, said rather than leaving the money in the state treasury, he figures it could be put to better use by donating it to his church, Auburn United Methodist Church, and a scholarship program at Auburn University.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said earlier that if the raise passed, he would donate his to Habitat for Humanity and other charities.

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

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