Planned budget change would cut lawmakers' pay

By KANTELE FRANKO Associated Press

Republicans in the Ohio Senate plan to introduce a state budget amendment that would cut lawmakers' base salaries by 5 percent, a spokesman told The Associated Press on Saturday after Senate leadership met to review more than 500 amendments.

The state constitution prohibits a legislator's salary from being changed during his or her term, so the cut could not take effect until the start of the next General Assembly. In the meantime, lawmakers could take the pay cut voluntarily, and Senate GOP leadership expects many members of the chamber would do so.

If passed, the cut would be the first major change in lawmakers' pay since 2008, which marked the end of a phased-in pay raise that began in 2002, the spokesman said. That increase has left the base salary for a senator at just under $60,600, an amount that doesn't include thousands of dollars lawmakers can earn for serving in leadership roles in the chamber and its various committees, according to the Senate.

The GOP's planned amendment would apply to all state lawmakers but not to other legislative staff, the spokesman said. The idea would have to be considered by the Republican-led House.

"I'm certain the members of our caucus would be generally supportive of that," House GOP spokesman Mike Dittoe said.

A spokesman for Senate Democrats said he had not heard about the amendment and the caucus has not discussed it. In February, Democratic Sen. Jason Wilson of Columbiana introduced a bill that would temporarily reduce lawmakers' salaries by up to 10 percent, but no major action has been taken on it.

The Republicans' planned budget amendment might be seen as a response to people who oppose a contentious new Ohio law that limits collective bargaining for public workers and who have criticized lawmakers for reviewing how public employee salaries and benefits are negotiated but not turning the spotlight on themselves.

The amendment is expected to be introduced Tuesday, and the full Senate plans to vote later this week on the more than $55 billion, two-year state budget. Lawmakers in both chambers would have to work out any differences between the two budget plans in what's called a conference committee.

The deadline for them to pass the state spending plan is June 30.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)