House approve 24% pay raise for legislators

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(Host) By a two vote margin, the Vermont House has given its approval to a plan to boost legislative pay by 24% beginning in January 2005. The vote on the measure was 69 to 67. It’s been eight years since lawmakers have taken action to adjust their salaries.

Under the plan proposed by Representative Francis Brooks (D-Montpelier), the weekly salary for a member of the General Assembly would increase from its current level of $536 to $666 in 2005. The plan would also tie future salary increases to the same rate that is negotiated for state employees.

Brooks says the pay increase is needed because a growing number of Vermonters cannot afford to serve in the Legislature:

(Brooks) “I would like to suggest to you that my reason for doing this is simply the fact that we are beginning and have begun to lose candidates from all sides of the political spectrum, from all sides of the political parties because of the hardship of being here.”

(Host) But Representative Stephen Webster (R-Randolph) argued that this is not a good time for lawmakers to raise their pay:

(Webster) “We’re in the middle of a recession and while maybe we’re eight years or 13 years behind in increasing legislative pay, this isn’t the year to play catch up.”

(Host) The pay raise amendment was part of a larger bill that increases the salaries of most state employees by 1.5% next year and by 2.5% in 2005.

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