Friday, February 3, 2012

Consequences to Raising Teacher Pay in Alabama

State Sen. Shadrack McGill defended a pay raise his predecessors in the Legislature passed, but said doubling teacher pay could lead to less-qualified educators.

At a prayer breakfast in Fort Payne this week, McGill was asked about the death of a defendant in the public corruption trial that was scheduled to begin Monday. Ray Crosby, a former legislative employee, was facing one count of bribery in federal court.

Also on trial are one current and two former state senators, a lobbyist and consultant for gambling and a casino owner.

McGill, R-Woodville, said a 62 percent pay raise in 2007 - passed first by a controversial voice vote and later in an override of a veto by then-Gov. Bob Riley - better rewards lawmakers and makes them less susceptible to being swayed by lobbyists.

Lawmakers entered the 2007 legislative session making $30,710 a year, a rate that had not been changed in 16 years. The raise increased it to $49,500 annually.

"That played into the corruption, guys, big time," he said. "You had your higher-ranking legislators that were connected with the lobbyists making up in the millions of dollars. They weren't worried about that $30,000 paid salary they were getting," McGill said, adding that lawmakers have to pay for their expenses out of pocket.

McGill said that by paying legislators more, they're less susceptible to taking bribes.