The growing number of lawmakers who have refused a pay increase this year is already more than double than last year.
According to House Spokesman Larry Berman, 26 of the 113 Senate and House members have formally declined the 3.2 percent raise, including Rep. Daniel Reilly, who represents constituents in all three municipalities on Aquidneck island.
Every year the salary is adjusted, based U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for the 12-month average ending December 2011. Last year, legislators received a 1.6 percent increase, including Rep. Reilly.
“I didn't know we received a raise last year,” said Reilly. “I would have declined it, for all the reasons I declined this one,” he said. Reilly has referenced a stagnant economic climate as well as his concerns about out-of-control spending as reasons he declined this year's raise.
Reilly said although he has asked the Joint Committee on Legislative Services to adjust his salary to remove last year’s increase, he was told it would be an administrative challenge to adjust his salary retroactively.
“I think when you look at my tenure in office thus far, I have a consistent track record of turning back more money than receiving, by refusing health care and grants, and now this raise, which combined would cost thousands of dollars more than my pay,” said the Representative.
After the July 1 increase, the part-time lawmaker salary is at $14,640, up $454 from last year’s salary of $14,186. The Speaker and Senate President make double.
The 3.2 percent increase translates into $52,210, which was added into the legislative budget for the Fiscal Year which began on July 1, said Berman.
The money saved by the refusals will be reflected as a surplus in the legislative budget. The 2014 budget will be adjusted to reflect the change, which will lower the total spending next year and make those funds available for other uses in the State, said Berman
The annual increase was introduced in the 1990s, when Rhode Island voters approved a change in the the State Constitution, Article VI, Section 3 to read, “Commencing in 1996, the rate of compensation shall be adjusted annually to reflect changes in the cost of living, as determined by the United States government during a 12-month period ending in the immediately preceding year.”
The pay in 1996 was established at $10,000.
“I’m happy that many of my colleagues have also chosen to give up their raises, but I think that we need to do more,” said Reilly about the other 25 lawmakers who also refused the pay increase.
He said that includes looking at the legislative budget as a whole, including health benefits and legislative grants, which he said do not face oversight and are not voted on by the General Assembly.
Only one lawmaker, state Rep. Scott Guthrie, a retired firefighter, has declined any legislative salary, according to Berman.