Why I Think PAC To PAC Transfers Will Survive This Legislative Session
The House and Senate today OK’d a more than 60 percent pay raise for legislators. The governor said he would veto the increase.
The resolution increases pay by $1,570 per month and sets future automatic increases tied to the consumer price index. The raise would boost annual legislative pay to $49,250. Riley, who has proposed income tax and other tax cuts and credits, said he knows both the House and Senate have the votes to override his veto. “If the House and Senate are going to give themselves a 61 percent raise, there’s no reason in the world they wouldn’t give the workers that allow that a raise through these tax cuts,” Riley said.
An override vote would require each legislator to vote yes or no in a recorded vote. The pay raise was not on the agendas of the House or Senate this morning.
State Rep. Demetrius Newton, D-Birmingham, introduced the resolution in the House. Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, proposed the resolution in the Senate. Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. allowed a voice vote, even though several Republican senators raised their hands requesting a recorded vote.
What does that have to do with banning PAC-PAC transfers? Two things, I think.
First, the decision about the pay raise is one where the primary benefits or costs will be born by someone with no say in the decision. That is, giving themselves a huge pay raise – whatever the merits of that decision – is a decision for which they get all the benefits and we bear all the costs. On the other hand, if they don’t provide the raise, they lose the money, but we see our resources conserved. Ditto banning PAC-PAC transfers. We bear all the costs of keeping them, while the legislature would bear all the costs of getting rid of them. Right now, every one of these folks gets to hide their donors behind PAC transfers, receiving the benefit of anonymous donations. Meanwhile us voters pay the costs of being unable to discover to whom our legislators are beholden. Now, in light of how they decided the pay raise issue – by benefiting themselves and burdening us – how do you think the PAC-PAC issue will end? This doesn’t look like a group into self-sacrifice.
Second, the PAC-PAC ban is all about open government. We want to know who is giving money to who. That way we can properly evaluate our candidates. Given that they just decided, with the exception of a few Republicans (and good for them), in an unrecorded voice vote to give themselves a huge raise, I’m less confident than I was yesterday that open government and accountability are very highly valued by the current legislature.