State senators recently approved themselves a pay hike disguised as an increase for in-district expenses. But they shouldn't count on getting it. Gov. Nikki Haley had unkind words for the salary increase, an indication that she almost certainly would veto the budget provision.
And considering that the Senate could only manage to approve the budget proviso by a 25-20 margin says that a two-thirds override would be a distinctly remote possibility. That is assuming the House actually supports the Senate amendment.
"In a time where we should be focused on real budget priorities - things like education, roads, and public safety - it makes zero sense to me that the Senate just voted themselves a pay raise," Haley said on her Facebook page. "There is no excuse for a Senator to pay themselves before taking care of state business - especially considering they all knew what this job paid when they ran for office."
Turns out that the Legislature set the stage for the salary hike in 2012, when it quietly approved funding for a consultant's study of legislative salary and expense allowances. According to a report from The Nerve, an online news source, the consultants received $60,000 for their trouble. And who's surprised that the consultants recommended the Legislature get a pay hike?
They determined that the salaries for legislators and the extra pay for legislative leaders don't match their counterparts in the region. They recommended a range of salary increases from $7,000 to $20,000.
But the Senate couldn't be so up front about raising its pay. Instead, it voted to double its in-district expense to $24,000, while leaving its $10,400 salary intact.
Legislators also receive ample per diem, mileage and retirement benefits.
One of the justifications for the pay hike is the increasing cost of gasoline and telephone expenses.
But the consultants' report notes that senators already receive $3,400 to pay for telephone, postage, and office supplies. So add that to the $12,000 in current in-district expense allowance.
If legislators want to make the case for increasing their salaries, they should by all means do so.
But they shouldn't be so disingenuous as to increase their pay via a bogus hike for in-district expenses.
And they shouldn't raise their pay by any means, unless the increase only becomes effective after the next four-year election cycle.
A veto by Gov. Haley would give legislators the opportunity to ponder how best to handle this politically volatile issue next time around.
If this ill-advised idea actually gets that far this year.
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