Three legislators from Shelby turn down pay increase

Published 3:45 pm Thursday, April 9, 2009

Three of Shelby County’s legislators have turned down the 3.8 percent cost-of-living pay increase that kicked in on Wednesday.

In March 2007, the Alabama legislature voted to override a veto by Gov. Bob Riley and gave themselves a 62 percent pay increase. Tied to that legislation was an annual pay increase, raising legislators’ pay each year based on the Consumer Price Index.

Shelby County’s state representatives Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, and Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, have turned down those raises this year, said Stephen Frey of the Shelby County Legislative Office.

“I opposed the thing when it was first brought up and I oppose this cost of living index,” Ward said. “When we voted for this pay raise, unemployment in Alabama was at 4.3 percent. Today, it’s 8.5 percent. I don’t know how any politician can take a pay raise when unemployment has doubled. I could not in good conscience do that.”

Alabama’s legislators make about $52,500, which is a combination of base pay and per day expense payments for things like hotel rooms when in session and other expenses, like the cost of stamps and stationary.

“I think this is an issue people do need to remember in the upcoming election,” Ward said. “I’m concerned that some people’s priorities aren’t in line.”

Hill said the cost-of-living raise was added to the pay raise legislation because “we would then never have to vote on a pay increase again.” However, because of the economy, “I just didn’t think it was right to accept it.”