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|Sen. Riser won't accept legislative pay raise|
State Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia won't accept a pay raise the Legislature approved for state lawmakers.
Earlier this week, the Senate concurred with changes the House of Representatives made to Sen. Ann Duplessis' legislation, which, once amended by the House, roughly doubled the annual compensation for members of the Legislature.
Lawmakers currently make $16,800 per year plus per diem and expenses to operate their district offices. The new salary, which takes effect July 1, will raise the pay to some $37,000 per year. Legislators have the option to accept the pay raise or reject it.
"I understood what the job paid when I took it," Riser said.
State Rep. Andy Anders, who voted for the pay hike, was unavailable for comment.
In spite of pressure across the state to veto the pay-raise bill, Gov. Bobby Jindal has repeatedly said he will not veto it.
The pay-raise bill entails a $143 allowance for personal expenses while lawmakers are in session in Baton Rouge. Also, lawmakers will receive some $6,000 a year in "unvouchered expenses," or money lawmakers can spend at their discretion.
The Duplessis bill originally called for tripling the annual compensation legislators are paid. The House amended the measure late last week, authoring a roughly 100 percent increase in legislative salaries.
State Sen. Francis Thompson said he voted in favor of the pay-raise bill because "it's very obvious we're underpaid."
Thompson said he has voted against salary increases for legislators for 33 years. This time, though, he changed his mind.
"What bothers me is if we're going to be able to attract the right kinds of people to legislative positions, we're going to have to at least get them enough financing to be able to pay for their gas, their food, their lodging and the essentials of the job," Thompson said.
Thompson questioned the logic of a state that consistently raises the salary of judges thwart corruption in the judicial system but won't provide legislators with better compensation.
"Why do we always say we're going to pay judges so they will not be tempted to be influenced by the wrong type of influence?" Thompson said. "The same thing holds true even more so in (other branches of )government."
Thompson said the legislative raises will amount to approximately $3 million a year in increased costs.
"What's $3 million in a budget of $33 billion?" Thompson said.
State Rep. Noble Ellington also voted in favor of the pay raise. Ellington was unavailable for comment.
In other business this week, the Legislature passed a measure to roll back state income tax rates beginning in 2010.
Senate Bill 87, introduced by state Sen. Buddy Shaw, repeals some of the state income rates the so-called "Stelly Plan" brought about. The "Stelly Plan," named in honor of its author, former Rep. Vic Stelly of Lake Charles, was passed by the Legislature and approved by the voters in 2002. It raised personal income taxes in Louisiana among all income tax filers. The income tax cuts Shaw's bill will bring about will yield a $300-million savings for Louisiana taxpayers.
Thompson said repealing some of the taxes levied by "Stelly" made sense because Louisiana is fighting hard to attract new businesses and citizens.
"It's important, too, if we want growth from outside of the state," Thompson said.
Thompson said companies and individuals looking to relocate take income taxes into consideration before making decisions.
"What they're looking for is a state that has less state income tax," Thompson said. "So this will put is in a very competitive position to attract industry and new citizens to Louisiana."
The bill passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate unanimously.
Jindal is expected to sign the tax cut into law later this week.
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