State Senate candidate Bryan Taylor of Prattville said, if elected, he would give the more than $20,000 increase in compensation that lawmakers have received since 2006 and donate it to schools and teachers in the six-county district.
Taylor, a Republican who was political director for Gov. Bob Riley, is trying to unseat longtime state Sen. “Walking” Wendell Mitchell, a Democrat running for his eighth term.
Taylor is one of several Republican legislative candidates who have made the pay raise an issue in the campaign.
Mitchell said he is already giving much of the salary increase away to four nonprofits: AGAPE, Compassion 21, Mexico Mission, and the United Way.Those charities help children who need a home or are in poverty. Mexico Mission takes trips to Mexico twice a year to help residents there with housing, healthcare, and food.
“I have been doing that a long time,” Mitchell said of donating his raise.
Mitchell said he has realized during his travels through the district that the most important issues are jobs, a balanced budget and ethics reform, “all of which I have supported long before my opponent got in this race.”
Predominantly Democratic legislators pushed through a 62 percent increase in salary and expense allowance as one of their first acts in 2007, the first year of the current four-year term. Lawmakers also included an automatic cost of living increase tied to the U.S. Consumer Price Index.
In 2006, before the pay raise, Taylor said lawmakers received a minimum of $30,660 in compensation.
Now, with the raise and cost of living increases, lawmakers receive $52,596, according to numbers Taylor received from the Legislative Fiscal Office.
Taylor said that increase is now more than 71 percent with the hikes for cost of living.
“Legislators are making $10,000 more than half of all Alabama families make in an entire year,” he said. He added the lawmakers are only on official business three months of the year. Most lawmakers would quickly point out that their jobs require full-time attention even though they are only in Montgomery three days a week for three months of the year.
Mitchell said it was not an increase in pay, but in expense allowance. He said, when he drives, sends out mail, travels or needs to pay for housing, he uses that expense allowance. He said he sometimes drives 400 or 500 miles in a day driving in his six-county district.
Mitchell said he knows some senators, who after all of their expenses, clear less than $20,000 a year.
The senator said, before the 2007 increase, the last increase was in 1992.
Mitchell said he believes members of the Legislature deserve “a reasonable wage for the service they perform. It ought to be commensurate with the work they do. If it needs to be adjusted, I am all for that.”
Taylor said the pay for legislators has increased while state budgets are strained, while the education budget is in proration, and teachers and parents are paying for supplies out of their pockets.
“This is symbolic, but it’s also very real,” Taylor said. “This is a way to help teachers and schools in the district.”
Taylor is one of several challengers who have vowed not to take all or part of the pay raise.
“The pay raise is just one of those issues that shows that career politicians in Montgomery are out of touch with the challenges facing Alabamians,” he said.
District 30 includes all or part of Autauga, Elmore, Lowndes, Butler, Crenshaw, and Pike counties.
Taylor, in writing, has also asked Mitchell to participate in a series of town hall-style forums, one in each county. He said they want to hear back from the senator by Sept. 1.
Mitchell said he would welcome an open dialogue, looked forward to discussing issues, will remain accessible to constituents, and would appear at forums with Taylor if his schedule allowed, but “I am not going to be dictated by him when I meet and greet my constituents.”
When he talked to the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday afternoon, he said he made six appearances in his district in the last 72 hours.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen