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April Fools joke is on Alabama voters

Well, the joke was on taxpayers Wednesday as Alabama Legislators got a $1,805 pay raise despite the state’s increasingly bleak economic woes.

The pay raises, which comes as part of an automatic cost-of-living increase lawmakers passed two years ago, equates to only 3.8 percent.

But it represents a much larger issue.

At a time when state agencies are seeking approval to furlough workers – without pay –for up to 24 days this year to reduce payroll expenses; when the state’s unemployment rate in February hit 8.4 percent, its highest mark in 22 years; when the governor already has declared at 12 percent proration in the education budget; and when declining sales tax revenues are threatening to force bigger cuts in state budgets across the board, state legislators had the opportunity to step in show of solidarity and leadership by declining, refusing or even deferring the pay raises this year.

But to date, most Alabama lawmakers have not done so.

Some – such as our own Rep. Alan Boothe, who signed paperwork last week refusing the payraise – have stepped up and shown leadership. Others, have said they may consider passing along more money in donations to non-profit organizations within their districts.

But the litmus test will lie in how many lawmakers will make a true stand and say no to the payraise.

We believe that the state government, as well as county and city governments, should reconsider the merits of annual “cost-of-living” pay increases in years such as this one, when recession and economic challenges are forcing significant cuts in services.

This year, when many in the the state Legislature simply took the annual pay raise without so much as a second thought in this tough economy, the only April Fools were the voters of Alabama.