Pay raise for legislators is necessary

The issue of a legislative pay raise is a difficult one. Why, one might ask, would the Alabama Legislature, with all of its historical problems, have the gall to vote itself a pay raise? The raise, in its current form, is greater than I wish it were, but that makes it no less of a necessity. I support the pay raise, and you, my constituents, deserve to know why.

Let&8217;s go back to 1991. That was the last time legislators received a pay raise.

At that time, I could travel to Montgomery and pay about $1.07 a gallon for gasoline.

My motel bill came to about $34 a night.

Turning the clock forward to 2007, things are just a little more expensive.

The cheapest &8220;flea trap&8221; motels in Montgomery cost upwards of $60 a night; the price of gasoline is bordering on $2.50 a gallon &8212; odds are good it will climb higher before the legislative session ends in June; and we all know how much the cost of dining out has gone up in the last 16 years.

And then there are the other expenses. Members of the House of Representatives have no staff, no other expense allowance and share one secretary with 10 legislators. We pay for most of our stationary and postage. When I have a major mail-out or computer input project, I have to hire a secretary outside of the legislature to complete it. All of this is paid from my legislative expense money or pay. By IRS rules, they are no different.

Alabama legislators receive no retirement and no health benefits. We are the only state that does not have a retirement for legislators and one of only about 15 that doesn&8217;t provide health insurance.

I put a calculator to what I make as a House member recently. Of the roughly $30,000 a year I receive, in 1991, my disposable income that would be considered salary was about $18,000.

In 2006, I&8217;ll have been lucky to net $9,000. So in 17 years, my take home pay after I paid all expenses is REDUCED by $9,000.

Without this pay raise, in the long run we will find that the only people who

are able to serve in the Alabama House and Senate are those independently wealthy or those who work for some government entity that allows absence without reducing salary &8212; and that in itself is a travesty.

No one wants to find us in a position of having only an elitist legislature.

Still, it&8217;s a very real possibility if the legislative pay situation problems remain uncorrected.

Rep. Mike Hill (R-Columbiana) serves the 41st district. He can be reached by e-mail at mailto:mhillcolum@aol.com