Nathan Stubbs

Pay raises speeding through state legislature

by Nathan Stubbs

Less than 9 minutes. That’s how long it’s taken the state legislature over the past two days to consider and then quickly approve a controversial bill that would triple their base salary, upping it from $16,800 to $50,700. Yesterday, it took less than five minutes for the Senate to pass the bill by a vote of 20-16. This morning a House committee approved the measure with less than four minutes of discussion. The bill, SB 672 by Sen. Ann Duplessis of New Orleans, is now being reassigned to the House Appropriations Committee, where it will likely be heard on Monday. If approved, the full House will likely vote on the bill next Wednesday.

Lafayette Sen. Mike Michot has been among the proponents of the bill, saying the pay raise will enable more people to be able to afford to run for public office (Sens. Don Cravins, Troy Hebert, Nick Gautreaux and Dan Morrish voted against the bill). In the House, Lafayette Rep. Joel Robideaux says he opposes the bill, though he seems to be in the minority. "I'm not saying the pay shouldn't be higher, because it would certainly attract more people to run," he says. "I just don't think you should ever vote for one that takes effect while you're in the middle of the term. If you're going to do [a pay raise], it should be for the next election cycle."

State lawmakers have not seen a pay raise since 1981. The bill would set legislators’ base salary to 30 percent of the annual salaries of members of the U.S. Congress, automatically adjusting any time federal lawmakers' salaries go up. The bill has faced strong criticism from the state Republican party and the public policy groups like the Louisiana Action Council. The governor’s office has also voiced opposition, although Jindal now says he will not veto the bill. A story in today’s Times Picayune notes House Speaker Jim Tucker told Jindal that there would be consequences and “the wheels would come off the train” if the governor moved to veto.