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Mooney wants to block lawmakers' pay raise

February 01, 2002

Mooney wants to block lawmakers' pay raise



By LAURA ERNDE
laurae@herald-mail.com


Sen. Alex X. Mooney is throwing up a roadblock to a pay raise for Maryland lawmakers.

But another local lawmaker who could make or break the deal, Sen. Donald F. Munson, says he will try to stop him.

Maryland legislators are slated to get a salary increase of about $12,000 over the next four years under a pay plan recommended by the General Assembly Compensation Commission.

The plan would boost lawmakers' salaries from $31,509 to $34,500 in 2003. Salaries would increase by $3,000 a year in each of the next three years to $43,500 in 2006.

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Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, is filing legislation to eliminate the raises along with the amounts lawmakers can be reimbursed for expenses.

"We're in a deficit year. A serious deficit year. This is no time to be giving ourselves raises," Mooney said.

Munson called Mooney's proposal "ridiculous."

"The fact is the legislature ought to be able to eat and live. Every working person deserves an increase from time to time. Inflation will eat you alive," he said.

Munson, R-Washington, is on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, which likely will review Mooney's bill.

That committee's chairwoman has said she thinks the proposed salary levels are fair.

While the legislative session runs for only 90 days a year, lawmakers put in many more hours, Munson said.

"There's a myth that this is a part-time legislature," Munson said.

Munson said he made a commitment in 1974 to be a full-time senator. Had he kept his job as a teacher he could be making $55,000 a year by now, he said.

Some Washington County lawmakers said they would vote to cancel the pay raises because it's another step toward a full-time legislature.

"When you've got your feet planted in the real world you bring a totally different perspective, to the citizens' advantage," said Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said anything over a cost-of-living increase is excessive.

"I love my job. I'll take whatever the taxpayers give me," he said.

Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, said he was inclined to follow the salary commission's recommendations although he supports a review of them.

"I certainly don't want to be greedy about it," he said.

Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, said she will vote against a pay increase although she believes it will pass anyway.

Lawmakers can reduce amounts recommended but cannot increase them. If they do nothing, the plan will become law.

Compensation packages approved in 1990, 1994 and 1998 increased salaries by $6,509 over 12 years.

The compensation commission, which was appointed by the governor, House speaker and Senate president, said raises have not kept up Maryland lawmakers pay up with those in other states, with employees' salaries or the cost of living.

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