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, I’d say it’s a 50-50 shot [that the legislator pay raise passes].”
Lafayette’s 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 you’ve 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 he’s 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. “It’s as close a vote as it can be, and I think it might come down to one vote,” he says. “And it’s not along party lines, either. I think it’s the more conservative pockets of the state that are most opposed to it.”
Let the countdown begin.