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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

It's good to be the king

From Stateline.org describing the tempestuous 2007 legislative session in the state of Alabama:
Lawmakers passed a 3.5 percent raise for state workers, a 7 percent raise for teachers and a 62 percent raise for themselves, the last in an unrecorded voice vote. Riley vetoed the legislators’ raises, but the veto was overridden.
Nice. Yet, let's be careful here - the 62% raise sounds high but what does it mean really? After all, if salaries were $1 per year and raised to $1.62 per year, would this be the end of the world?

Here's what the Alabam state legislature website says about legislature pay:
The salary of legislators is fixed by the Constitution at $10.00 per day, plus expenses in an amount fixed by the Legislature. A travel allowance of $.10 per mile from the member's home to the Capitol and return is paid once for each legislative session. The current allowance for expenses is $50.00 per diem for three days during each week that the Legislature actually meets during any regular session, special session or organizational session, and $3,850.00 per month expenses year round. Each member is also paid $50.00 per diem for the performance of his or her duties as a member of any duly authorized interim legislative committee or subcommittee thereof, conditional upon actual attendance, and 48.5 cents per mile for one round trip per week of actual attendance at such interim committee meetings. Standing Committees may meet between legislative sessions and are paid for these meetings in the same manner as state employees are reimbursed for travel. Legislators are not paid a salary year round, contrary to what many people think; they are paid a salary only during a legislative session.
That doesn't sound too bad - $10 per day? But as pointed out here after all the per diems and other compensations are accounted, the average salary for the Alabama legislator is around $10,000 for the average 14 weeks during which the legislature is in session. Not bad money, but definitely not great. Indeed, for eight weeks of teaching I was paid a bit more that this with a lot less headache.

Nevertheless, granting yourself a raise at the expense of the taxpayer is probably the best example of how it's "good to be the king" in our modern U.S. government.

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