[StBernard] Raises for statewide pols move closer to reality

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Jun 26 21:00:52 EDT 2007

Raises for statewide pols move closer to reality
Posted by Capital bureau June 25, 2007 12:35PM
By Bill Barrow
Capital Bureau

BATON ROUGE -- Raises for future Louisiana governors and statewide officials
are near final approval, enduring a barrage of unfriendly amendments Monday,
including a proposed pay hike for legislators, to win Senate approval.

The upper chamber's 23-12 vote sends House Bill 489, sponsored by Rep.
Joseph Toomy, R-Gretna, to a conference committee of senators and
representatives who must reconcile differences between the two chambers'

Future chief executives -- along with lieutenant governors, treasurers,
attorneys general, secretaries of state, insurance commissioners and
commissioners of agriculture and forestry -- would be in line for pay hikes
of about 35 percent.

The House language would bar the raises from taking effect until the
deficit-bound Road Home program has enough guaranteed financing to pay all
outstanding claims by applicants whose homes were damaged during the 2005
hurricanes and flood. Senators stripped that provision, making the raises
take effect in January, as a new slate of officers assume their posts
following this fall's elections.

The governor's pay would climb from the current $95,000 to $130,000, which
is about $6,000 higher than the national average for governors. Salaries for
the remaining six statewide officials would climb from $85,000 to $115,000.

Those increases were recommended by a state pay commission that studies
politicians' pay, a point that the bill's supporters have cited throughout
the legislative process.

During Monday's floor debate, several senators attempted to alter the bill,
some adding other public officials to the list of raise recipients, others
attempting to make the proposal less generous.

By a vote of 22-13, senators turned down an amendment by Sen. Joe McPherson,
D-Woodworth, to raise public service commissioners' annual pay from $45,000
to $60,000. Those posts are classified as part-time.

Sen. Walter Boasso, D-Arabi, sought to delay the statewide raises until
2015, two election cycles after the current effective date. Boasso is
running for governor, an office that restricts occupants to no more than two
consecutive terms. The amendment failed 25-11.

Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Livonia, attempted to add lawmakers to the bill,
though he would have withheld the raises until 2012, a full election cycle
from the current session. Marionneaux's proposal, which he said reflected
the recommendations of the state pay commission, would have more than
doubled lawmakers $16,800 salaries to $35,536 and guaranteed 4 percent
annual raises for legislators thereafter.

He argued that legislating a cost-of-living adjustment would take the issue
out of lawmakers' hands forever. His colleagues disagreed, spiking the
amendment 23-13.

Blanco, who is not running for a second term is not affected by the bill,
has not said whether she will sign the measure. Earlier in her term, she
opposed politicians' raises until after teachers and state employees saw
their salaries increased. The governor is currently considering a state
budget for fiscal 2008 that grant across-the-board raises to both those
classes of employees.

None of the remaining six statewide officeholders, all of whom are seeking
additional terms, have expressed opposition to the raises. Seven-term
Agriculture Commissioner Bob Odom has been the most vocal supporter, openly
lobbying lawmakers for passage.

Bill Barrow can be reached at bbarrow at timespicayune.com or (225) 342-5590.

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