Pay Raise Defines Session



By: Jeremy Alford

Five months of legislative sessions and more than a year of gubernatorial jawboning have been distilled in roughly one week’s time into a singular issue: increased pay for lawmakers. While the 2008 regular session adjourned last week, its aftereffects are likely to be with us for a while. At a minimum, the votes to boost legislative salaries from $16,800 to $37,500 will serve as a flashpoint for this generation of lawmakers and the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal — an early indication of how they got to where they’re heading.

“This could possibly become a defining moment,” says Barry Erwin, who covered state politics as a reporter for nearly 10 years before taking over as head of the Council for a Better Louisiana. “Right now you have a situation where the bases are loaded, there are two outs and there’s a tie score. Everyone is in a jam.”??Many of the lawmakers who supported the pay raise are facing harsh criticism — and recall drives, in a few instances — back in their districts. A public protest is planned next week, and voters are expressing their outrage through Web sites, newscasts, talk radio, letters to the editor and in everyday conversations. “Historically, a pay raise by lawmakers is among the toughest challenges for incumbents to explain come election time,” says Joshua Stockley, former president of the Louisiana Political Science Association and professor of government at Nicholls State.??Erwin says it’s a flare-up like he’s never seen before, thanks largely to the influence of the Internet. As for Jindal Watch 2008, the governor was still promising last week not to veto the pay raise

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