Thirty-One Legislators’ Pay Does Not a Turnaround Beget

The latest political news meme in Rhode Island has been the public declaration of 31 General Assembly legislators that they intend to forgo their scheduled salary increases:

Starting this month, the annual salary for most members of the part-time state legislature rises from $14,185.96 to $14,639.90. The salaries for House Speaker Gordon D. Fox and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, who make twice as much as other lawmakers, went from $28,371.92 to $29,279.80.

Neither Fox nor Paiva Weed is on the “no raise” list, meaning that the election-year move will save the state all of $14,072 on its $8,099,856,384 (that is, 0.000174%). As Monique Chartier notes on Anchor Rising, an additional legislator, Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt (D, Woonsocket) has modified the pledge so as to get some charitable-giving credit — allocating her $494 to local charities, in a sort of one-person legislative grant.  Here’s the full list of self-restraining legislators, as provided to the Current by Senate Director of Communications Greg Pare:

  • House of Representatives:
    • Jon Brien (D, Woonsocket)
    • Michael Chippendale (R, Coventry, Foster, Glocester)
    • Doreen Costa (R, Exeter, North Kingstown)
    • Laurence Ehrhardt (R, North Kingstown)
    • Frank Ferri (D, Warwick)
    • Joy Hearn (D, Barrington, East Providence)
    • Raymond Johnston (D, Pawtucket)
    • Cale Keable (D, Burrillville, Glocester)
    • Jan Malik (D, Barrington, Warren)
    • James McLaughlin (D, Central Falls, Cumberland)
    • Rene Menard (D, Cumberland, Lincoln)
    • Jeremiah O’Grady (D, Lincoln, Pawtucket)
    • Daniel Reilly (R, Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth)
    • Patricia Serpa (D, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick)
    • Donna Walsh (D, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly)
  • Senate:
    • Dennis Algiere (R, Charlestown, Westerly)
    • David Bates (R, Barrington, Bristol)
    • Marc Cote (D, North Smithfield, Woonsocket)
    • Paul Fogarty (D, Burrillville, Glocester, North Smithfield)
    • Dawson Hodgson (R, East Greenwich, North Kingstown, Warwick)
    • Paul Jabour (D, Providence)
    • Nicholas Kettle (R, Coventry, Foster, Scituate)
    • Francis Maher (R, Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich)
    • Michael McCaffrey (D, Warwick)
    • Harold Metts (D, Providence)
    • Edward O’Neill (I, Lincoln, North Providence, Pawtucket)
    • Christopher Ottiano (R, Bristol, Portsmouth)
    • Roger Picard (D, Cumberland, Woonsocket)
    • James Sheehan (D, Narragansett, North Kingstown)
    • Glenford Shibley (R, Coventry, East Greenwich, Warwick, West Warwick)
    • William Walaska (D, Warwick)

While considering this strong showing of 21% of the House (including Baldelli-Hunt) and 42% of the Senate, Rhode Islanders should keep in mind some contemporaneous news.  As I reported on Friday:

Since Rhode Island’s peak employment in December 2006, the labor force has dropped by 21,910 people.  If it hadn’t, unemployment would now be 14.2%.

Worse still, RI is dead last among states in the percentage distance of its employment from that peak, and it’s one of just four states that have been on a downward trend since early 2010.  No other states, by the way, share all of these qualities: Nevada beats Rhode Island in current unemployment rate, but its employment is closer to its peak; Michigan is almost as far as Rhode Island from its peak, but its employment has been on the increase for two years.

As symbolic as refusing a raise may be — and as consistent as that symbol may be with some of the politicians’ records — voters might want to consider how a few thousand dollars balances against a legislative session that ratcheted up the cost of living and the difficulty of making a living in Rhode Island while doing nothing to stop or reverse the state’s uniquely horrible downward spiral.

  • Monique

    Yes, let's be clear. To refuse the raise is the right thing to do and we appreciate those legislators who have done so.

    It should not, however, be confused with the substantial fix-the-state to-do list currently facing the General Assembly.