Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Ohio lawmakers want $9,247 pay raise

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Ohio lawmakers appear ready this week to give themselves a 22 percent pay raise, while also increasing the salaries of many state and local officials.

        Saying they haven't had a raise in eight years, legisla tors passed their pay plan out of the House Finance Committee on Monday by a vote of 24-5.

  Here is a look at the top 10 highest paying state legislatures in the United States. Also included are estimated salaries paid to Indiana and Kentucky lawmakers who work in part-time legislatures.

  State        Base salary
  1. California ....... $99,000
  2. New York ....... $79,500
  3. Pennsylvania ....... $60,672
  4. Michigan ....... $56,981
  5. Illinois ....... $53,581
  6. Massachusetts ....... $46,410
  7. Ohio ....... $42,427
  8. Wisconsin ....... $41,809
  9. Oklahoma ....... $38,400
  10. New Jersey ....... $35,000
  33. Indiana ....... $11,600
  41. Kentucky ....... $7,755

  Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

        The $42,427 salary all Ohio lawmakers earn ranks seventh highest among the nation's 50 state legislatures. California lawmakers make the most at $99,000 followed by New York, Penn sylvania, Michigan, Illinois and Massachusetts.

        The proposed boost to $51,674 next year is needed to cover rising costs and to help the Ohio General Assembly attract qualified candidates, said Senate President Richard Finan, R-Evendale. He said it's hard to find people to run for the legislature when local officials such as county commissioners are paid thousands more.

        Pay for elected county officeholders is based on population. A Hamilton County commissioner, for example, earns $67,926 a year.

        Legislative pay raises have potential side effects: angry voters. With more than 40 term-limited representatives and senators leaving the General Assembly in January, party leaders see an opportunity to raise pay now.

        “It's a thorny political issue, but there is also a question of fairness,” Mr. Finan said. “I think we have a pretty good shot at (passing) it.”

        In fact, lawmakers hope to put it on a fast track to Gov. Bob Taft, passing it through the House and the Senate before Thursday.

        The bill would provide 3 percent raises next year to many locally elected officials, including county commissioners, township trustees and judges. These officials also would get cost-of-living adjustments equal to the rate of inflation up to a maximum 3 percent every year from 2002 through 2008.

        The governor and other statewide officials already received pay raises. The new bill also gives them certain cost-of-living adjustments.

        Lawmakers sworn in next year would get a $9,247 pay increase. The raise is meant to compensate for the eight years in which there were no pay increases, said Rep. Robert Corbin, R-Centerville, the House Finance Committee chairman.

        Like the other officials, lawmakers would get annual cost-of-living adjustments of no more than 3 percent from 2002 through 2008.

        Mr. Corbin said Ohio should not be compared with part-time legislatures in Kentucky and Indiana, where lawmakers earn $11,600 and $7,755, respectively.

        He and House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, R-Reynoldsburg, said that, while Ohio lawmakers receive payments to cover round-trip travel to Columbus, they have to pay for housing and food out of their own pockets.

        State Rep. Jackie O'Brien, R-Cincinnati, voted against the bill in committee. She said it's not right for lawmakers to raise pay weeks before a wave of new legislators are sworn in.


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