FACING ECONOMIC conditions that are still tight – as well as some mid-term elections that promise to be tight as well – lawmakers in Washington recently agreed to forego cost of living pay hikes for themselves during the 2011 fiscal year.
On Tuesday, members of Congress voted 402-15 in overwhelming support of this noble measure. The Senate passed similar action that blocked the automatic pay raise that was on the horizon for them next year.
The continuing cost of living pay adjustment – known as “COLA” – was initially approved in 1989 as a means for legislators to bypass having to act every year on what was essentially pay raise legislation for themselves.
Although many believe the economy is on the rebound, some lawmakers in Washington are being cautious enough on this front to call for the repeal of the automatic cost of living increase and go back to the annual vote on the measure.
Last Thursday, the Senate took action to block the “COLA” raise, which would have increased members’ salaries by about $1,600. A bipartisan group of Senators this week urged Congress to do the same, which they indeed did.
Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said, “Ohio workers are more productive than ever, but too many are seeing their wages cut or their hours reduced. As Ohioans work to rebound from this economic downturn, the last thing we in Washington should do is give ourselves a raise.”
On Tuesday evening, members of Congress who supported the measure in the House echoed those sentiments, noting that unemployment rates remain high across the nation, cuts in public funding have been handed down in local communities and families are still struggling to make ends meet.
The fact that this is an important election year probably plays into the fact that these elected officials are more than willing to give up their automatic pay increases. But this was obviously the right thing to do.
Besides, it’s safe to say that elected officials on any level – particularly the federal level – are already well-paid.
Let’s keep a close eye on all elected officials – including those in our local governments – to see if they have the courage, leadership and moral fiber to follow suit.