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Basing legislative pay on judges’ pay raises concern

A signature is all that is keeping legislatures from an almost 50-percent pay raise. Senate Bill 401, which increases the salaries of members of the General Assembly and statewide elected officials, has passed both the House and Senate. It is now on its way for Gov. Mitch Daniel’s signature.
Under the bill, legislators’ annual salaries would be set at 18 percent of a trial judge’s pay. Members of the General Assembly now make a base pay of $11,600 plus money for various forms of expenses, which brings the average salary to about $40,000. If the new bill is signed, their base pay would increase to about $20,000 in 2009.
I think our legislators deserve a raise especially since they have not had one in more than 20 years, and the legislation also makes them reduce some of their benefits.
However, I do have some major issues with our state legislators raising their own salaries.
‘ The obvious issue is conflict of interest, with every party involved from the senators, the representatives and Daniels, whose raise is also included in the bill. I already have huge issues with paying someone about $40,000 (base salary plus expenses) for four to five months of work since we have a part-time legislation.
‘ I think raising their salaries almost 50 percent is too much at one time. They are giving themselves a huge raise when they have yet to raise Indiana’s minimum wage. I thought legislators were supposed to put the people first. This is my main issue with them raising their own salaries. We have people still making $10,000 a year who work for minimum wage. Why not raise their salaries first?
‘ Since legislators are getting 18 percent of a trial judge’s salary, they basically get automatic raises when our judges’ salaries increase. The raise is not based on merit or length of service. So a legislator in his or her first year could essentially get a raise. The General Assembly is also responsible for setting the wages of Indiana’s judges. So all the legislator has to do to get a raise is raise the trial judge’s salary.
‘ The bill also calls for statewide elected officials to get raises. Those include the governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer and auditor. The governor would get a raise in 2009 and then every four years. The others would get annual raises beginning next year. Gov. Daniels makes $95,000 a year plus benefits which includes living expenses. Do we really need to pay the governor more?
‘ The General Assembly’s annual base pay, figured at $11,600 for 150 members, is about $1.74 million. If their base pay is nearly doubled, I wonder where the extra $1.74 million will come from in 2009. We are already selling off parts of Indiana to help cut costs and make money to pay for other things. They’ve proposed raising taxes on cigarettes to pay for health care. So, I wonder what taxes they will be raising or what they will be selling to give themselves a raise?