By Len Lazarick
If legislators do nothing to stop it in the next 19 days, members of the Maryland General Assembly elected this fall — including probably two-thirds of the current members — will get a 16% raise over the next four years, bringing their annual salaries to $50,330. They currently make $43,500 for what is technically a part-time job.
Lawmakers have already allowed the next governor to get a 20% raise to $180,000 by doing nothing to stop it in the first 45 days of the current session.
The lawmakers have not had a raise in eight years; the governor’s salary has been $150,000 for nine years.
The raises come through the decisions of two separate salary commissions created in the Maryland constitution that requires outside bodies to recommend changes in salaries, pensions and expenses for the top elected officials. If the legislature does not lower or reject them, they go into effect automatically — without any senator or delegate having to take a vote on their own pay or that of the governor.
Republican resolutions reject pay hike
The only potential roadblock to next year’s pay hikes are resolutions introduced by all 12 Republican senators and 38 of the 43 Republicans in the House of Delegates.
Both resolutions sit in the Rules Committee of each house, committees dominated by the Democratic leadership where most resolutions are sent to die.
The Senate Rules Committee has not even had a hearing on the resolution late-filed on Feb. 27 and the House has had two brief hearings where only two delegates spoke in favor of rejecting the pay hikes.
“I just think salary increases should be based on some goals, like unemployment figures,” said Del. Wade Kach, the lead sponsor who is a 40-year House veteran running for the Baltimore County Council.
On Dec. 16, the General Assembly Compensation Commission recommended the pay hike based on the cost of living increases for the past eight years and likely COLAs in the next four years. Kach said at the very least the increase based on projected inflation should be cut.
May be no opportunity for a vote
“As time goes by, the chances of [the resolution] passing are diminished,” Kach said. “If it’s put in a drawer in Rules, we won’t have an opportunity to vote it up or down.”
Rules Committee Chair Anne Healey pointed out that, “We hardly ever do resolutions at all,” and wouldn’t predict whether the committee would take a vote.
House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, one of five Republicans on the 24-member committee, said, “We’re going to try to see what we can do to get it out.”
One possible move is to petition it out of the Rules Committee, but that would require the signature of 47 members — meaning some Democrats would need to sign on.
Here is the report of the General Assembly Compensation Commission. It includes history of pay increases, comparisons with other Maryland officials and other states, and reports on use of expense accounts.
In 2010, the legislature rejected a recommended pay increases that would have been based on reducing the unemployment rate.
Here is the report of the Governor’s Salary Commission, and the story about its recommendations.
The pay raise is unreasonable and although one writer indicates we are a “wealthy state”, there is a structural deficit the last time I checked. No one asked them to run for public office and in today’s climate, none of them step down from office because there are no term limits. A significant number of them have full-time jobs which suggests to me that they are not working as hard as one may think.
The pay is reasonable for the hard work they put in. While readers like to take shots from a distance, those who work in Annapolis and attend hearings see the hours they put in. Additionally, the session is only a few months but study and constituent service continues around the year.
On the other hand, the pensions are outrageous…especially in light of the cost increases and benefit cuts pushed through for all state and school workers. That should be the focus of this story.
It’s not like they are forced to work in state government. They asked, begged for the job! They are PUBLIC SERVANTS. They work FOR US. Most have jobs or own small businesses that make adjustments while they serve in the legislature. If you have a problem with their pensions then push for TERM LIMITS! Two terms & out with no pension awarded, then we can talk paying them more to compensate for their “service”. It’s difficult to justify increasing the pay of the next governor & the state legislature when middle class Maryland workers are having a tough time making ends meet thanks to the 30+ taxes, fees & tolls approved by this bunch of overspending “public servants”.
There are many millions of part time employees that would love to make $43K let alone $50K for two or three months so-called work.
With things the way they are in Maryland, there should be salary cuts… $ 43-$ 50,000 / year is too much for part-time work… If you can call it work…
While we need to be judicious about pay raises for lawmakers, these pay raises for our legislators (with many of whom I disagree), are not out of line. We live in a relatively wealthy state and these pay raises will have a minor impact (if any) on a budget of $37 billion. The issue is not pay. In a democracy we elect legislators not based on what we pay them but what, we hope, they can do for the good of their jurisdictions and that of the state as a whole. If we don’t examine the legislation that comes out of Annapolis, then we deserve the legislators that we get – regardless of how much we pay them. Sad but true.