The state budget may have some numbers moved around. No one wants to say that for the record, but many of the House members are not happy with Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget.
According to state law, the total number of the budget – the bottom line – can’t be altered from the governor’s budget, but the line items within the budget can.
I don’t profess to understand how the legislature thinks, but if I were a member, I’d say cut the $2,000 for teacher salaries and spread that money around rural counties.
I’d do that partly to spare the rural counties some financial pain and partly to stick a finger in the governor’s eye.
Whether or not the Republican House is willing to do that, I don’t know. It is safe to say the House, especially its speaker and committee chairmen, resent the governor’s budget process, which largely ignore them.
The legislature is just getting started and Georgia’s governor wields a lot of power. A fight between the House and governor would come on top of an already fierce battle for control of the legislature between the two parties and, potentially, an intraparty battle between Rep. Doug Collins and Kelly Loeffler for the U.S. Senate seat. If that fight develops, it will be between Kemp and his allies and Donald Trump and his allies. If I were David Perdue, I would already be running in the other direction.
Rep. Tommy Benton, Jefferson’s incumbent representative, has stepped into another hornet’s fight, this time on behalf of speaker David Ralston.
Benton, the chairman of the House Retirement Committee, shepherded a retirement bill through his committee that would benefit Ralston pretty dramatically. It would be based on a percentage of his salary – in this case, 38 percent of $99,000.
Ralston is considered a full-time lawmaker, except that he also carries on some legal practice.
With the new bill, no longer would Ralston get a pension based on the years of service, as other legislators do.
Benton has been a long-time political ally of the speaker. That is one reason he is on the appropriations and rules committees – those are typically stacked with members who are in favor with the speaker.
The easy way to handle the retirement question – if it had not already passed the committee – is to drop the language that would affect the speaker’s pension. That would treat him like any other legislator.
Legislators should be paid more than they are now – about $17,000 plus a per diem when in session or doing committee work. However, they also receive retirement and insurance from the state and those benefits can mount up, particularly for those who have to buy insurance.
Reluctant to raise their pay – including pensions – legislators tend to not talk about the subjects.
They should talk about it, along with school boards, county commissioners, city council members and school board members.
None of those listed should receive benefits that are intended for full-time employees. Those include retirement and insurance. But they should be paid well for their service. Legislators could get 50 percent more than they are making and be adequately compensated, maybe. Double the pay would not be out of line.
The Homer council members are dancing around the same issue. The Barrow County Board of Education just agreed to up their pay. Two members voted against the pay increase because it was so dramatic, but the pay had not gone up for about 30 years. The Statham council has rejected pay increases in the past two years.
You can see the problems.