Va. Senate leaders finally agree on something: ‘We need a raise’

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.


Sen. Richard L. Saslaw ( D-Fairfax), left, Sen. Thomas K. Norment ( R-James City) saw eye-to-eye on a pay raise for General Assembly members — at least the first time they voted on it. (Steve Helber/AP)

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.

So there it was, a rare moment of agreement in the midst of a General Assembly session fraught by partisan battles over social issues and a budget standoff.

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.

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.

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