Some lawmakers say pay raises justified


Sunday, October 26th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


Both of Oklahoma's veteran Republican senators expressed support for getting pay raises in 2004, although sentiment on the issue was divided among those in the House of Representatives.

Sens. Don Nickles and Jim Inhofe voted with the majority last week to table an amendment that would have killed the automatic increase, the Tulsa World reported from its Washington bureau.

"I think members of Congress should receive the same cost-of-living adjustment as all other federal employees," Nickles said when asked to justify the pay hike in spite of a soaring deficit, a troubled economy and the ongoing war.

Nickles' office later said members of Congress were scheduled to get a 2.2 percent, or $3,400, boost to their current $154,700 annual salary, compared to the 4.1 percent hike for most government workers.

Inhofe called the attempt to kill the pay hike the "epitome of hypocrisy."

"I am not going to play that game," he said. "We have lost some of the greatest minds in the United States Senate who were unable to serve because they were not personally wealthy."

Inhofe, whose annual financial disclosure statements indicate he is a millionaire and the richest Oklahoman in Congress, said "it does not serve America well to have a Congress made up purely of Rockefellers and Kennedys."

Rep. Brad Carson, the only Democrat in the state's delegation, took the strongest stand against pay increases.

"I am proud to say that I made a promise to my district never to accept a pay raise, and I continue to stand by that promise," Carson said. "It is no wonder why the American people's faith in our system of democracy continues to erode. Congress should lead by example, especially when our country finds itself in such a poor economic state."

A candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Nickles, Carson said he will continue his stance if elected to that office.

Republican Rep. John Sullivan also expressed opposition to another pay raise for lawmakers.

"Our economy in Oklahoma and across the country is recovering. I work every day to bring new jobs and industry to our area," Sullivan said. "I do not feel that it is proper to use the taxpayers' money to increase the pay for members of Congress."

Republican Rep. Ernest Istook had opposed the 4.1 percent increase for federal workers, which exceeded President Bush's budget, but he lost that fight in committee.

Istook did not say exactly where he came down on a pay increase for lawmakers, but he said if the Senate vote had gone the other way, he would have worked in conference to forego the pay hike for next year.

Republican Rep. Frank Lucas said the annual pay increases lawmakers receive "account for inflationary increases in living costs," adding that other workers and retirees also receive such adjustments.

Republican Rep. Tom Cole also cited such increases.

"In general, I believe that the pay of representatives and senators should be adjusted periodically to reflect changes in the cost of living," Cole said, adding that change is less than the average wage increase of nongovernment workers in private business.




Some lawmakers say pay raises justified



TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Both of Oklahoma's veteran Republican senators expressed support for getting pay raises in 2004, although sentiment on the issue was divided among those in the House of Representatives.

Sens. Don Nickles and Jim Inhofe voted with the majority last week to table an amendment that would have killed the automatic increase, the Tulsa World reported from its Washington bureau.

"I think members of Congress should receive the same cost-of-living adjustment as all other federal employees," Nickles said when asked to justify the pay hike in spite of a soaring deficit, a troubled economy and the ongoing war.

Nickles' office later said members of Congress were scheduled to get a 2.2 percent, or $3,400, boost to their current $154,700 annual salary, compared to the 4.1 percent hike for most government workers.

Inhofe called the attempt to kill the pay hike the "epitome of hypocrisy."

"I am not going to play that game," he said. "We have lost some of the greatest minds in the United States Senate who were unable to serve because they were not personally wealthy."

Inhofe, whose annual financial disclosure statements indicate he is a millionaire and the richest Oklahoman in Congress, said "it does not serve America well to have a Congress made up purely of Rockefellers and Kennedys."

Rep. Brad Carson, the only Democrat in the state's delegation, took the strongest stand against pay increases.

"I am proud to say that I made a promise to my district never to accept a pay raise, and I continue to stand by that promise," Carson said. "It is no wonder why the American people's faith in our system of democracy continues to erode. Congress should lead by example, especially when our country finds itself in such a poor economic state."

A candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by Nickles, Carson said he will continue his stance if elected to that office.

Republican Rep. John Sullivan also expressed opposition to another pay raise for lawmakers.

"Our economy in Oklahoma and across the country is recovering. I work every day to bring new jobs and industry to our area," Sullivan said. "I do not feel that it is proper to use the taxpayers' money to increase the pay for members of Congress."

Republican Rep. Ernest Istook had opposed the 4.1 percent increase for federal workers, which exceeded President Bush's budget, but he lost that fight in committee.

Istook did not say exactly where he came down on a pay increase for lawmakers, but he said if the Senate vote had gone the other way, he would have worked in conference to forego the pay hike for next year.

Republican Rep. Frank Lucas said the annual pay increases lawmakers receive "account for inflationary increases in living costs," adding that other workers and retirees also receive such adjustments.

Republican Rep. Tom Cole also cited such increases.

"In general, I believe that the pay of representatives and senators should be adjusted periodically to reflect changes in the cost of living," Cole said, adding that change is less than the average wage increase of nongovernment workers in private business.