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Story Archives: Area solons differ on pay-raise bill
|Area solons differ on pay-raise bill|
A proposal to more than double legislator salaries passed the Legislature this week and now awaits the signature of Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The measure drew support from some Franklin Parish legislators but one state senator said he would not accept the raise if the state gives him the option.
"I understood what the job paid when I took it," said state Sen. Neil Riser.
Jindal has indicated he will sign Senate Bill 672, which raises the base salary for a state legislator from $16,790 to more than $39,000.
The bill leaves in place a $143 allowance for personal expenses while lawmakers are in session. Also untouched: some $6,000 a year in "unvouchered expenses" - money lawmakers can spend at their discretion.
The bill was introduced by state Sen. Anne Duplessis, D-New Orleans. Originally, the measure would have more than tripled salaries. However, the amount of the raise was rolled back by the state House of Representatives in response to public outcry.
State Sen. Francis Thompson said he voted in favor of legislator pay raises because, "it's very obvious we're underpaid."
Thompson contended he has voted against salary increases for legislators for 33 years. However, this time, he changed his mind.
"What bothers me is if we're going to be able to attract the right kinds of people to legislative positions, we're going to have to at least get them enough financing to be able to pay for their gas, their food, their lodging and the essentials of the job," Thompson said.
Thompson questioned the logic of a state that consistently raises the salary of judges to ward of public corruption on the bench but won't provide legislators with better compensation.
"Why do we always say we're going to pay judges so they will not be tempted to be influenced by the wrong type of influence?" Thompson asked. "The same thing holds true even more so in government."
Thompson noted the raises would amount to approximately $3 million a year in increased costs.
"What's $3-million in a budget of $33 billion?" Thompson said.
State Rep. Noble Ellington also voted in favor of the pay raise. Ellington did not return several calls for comment.
In other business this week, the Legislature passed a measure to roll back state income tax rates beginning in 2009.
Senate Bill 87, introduced by state Sen. Buddy Shaw, repeals the 2002 "Stelly Plan" income tax increases and will provide Louisiana taxpayers with some $300 million in tax relief.
Thompson said repealing the tax made sense because Louisiana is fighting hard to attract new businesses and citizens.
"It's important too if we want growth from outside of the state," Thompson said.
Thompson noted companies and individuals looking to relocate take income taxes into consideration before making decisions.
"What they're looking for is a state that has less state income tax," Thompson said. "So this will put is in a very competitive position to attract industry and new citizens to Louisiana."
The bill passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate unanimously.
Jindal is expected to sign the tax cut into law later this week.