Maybe there’s never a good time for politicians to vote themselves a pay raise. But Republican and Democratic leaders in the Virginia Senate, who’ve seen eye-to-eye on little this General Assembly session, agreed that the time was Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment (R-James City) and Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) made pitches for a little more moolah in floor speeches, urging passage of a bill that would have tied their salaries to any raises given in coming years to state employees. The measure was to take effect until 2016.
It’s been 21 years since Virginia state senators and delegates have gotten a pay hike. The part-time gig pays $18,000 a year, plus per diems. Nobody is in it for the money, nor should they be, Norment and Saslaw said. But the low salary makes it hard for people who are not wealthy or retired to serve, they said.
And then Sen. Jeffrey L. McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) had to go and ruin it all, rising and making an impassioned plea for the obvious: If the Senate, which hasn’t been able to pass a budget, can muster the votes to boost its pay, how’s that going to look? He chastised senators for even taking time to discuss such a thing when the budget remained up in the air.
The raise failed in a 10-29 vote, with Saslaw and Norment voting in favor. A little while later, the Senate decided to reconsider that vote. Norment, who had conceded during his pitch that “the optics” of voting for a raise amid a still-shaky economy weren’t good, voted against the raise the second time around.