A majority of Maryland's state senators managed yesterday to do what their counterparts in the House of Delegates had been unable to do: reach agreement on a pay raise resolution.
By a vote of 34 to 10, the senators approved a measure that would set their pay at $16,000 a year for the next four years, up from their present pay of $12,500 a year. At the same time, by reaching an agreement, they avoided possible parliamentary maneuverings that would have guaranteed themselves an even higher increase.
The Senate's action is not the final word on the subject.
The $16,000 resolution, must be approved by the House of Delegates before it becomes effective. If a majority of delegates fails to agree to it, all legislators will receive the higher salary increases, which a study commision had recommended.
This commission had recommended that the legistlators receive a series of pay increases that would leave them with $18,500 salaries by 1982. The pay is designed to cover only the three months of the year when the lawmakers formally convene in Annapolis; however, several delegates had pointed out that they frequently are called on to handle legislative business even in the off-season.
Ever since the commission report came out last fall, itricate machinations have surrounded the whole question of legislative salary increases. Legislators were painfully aware of the adverse reaction congressmen got from constituents after they voted themselves a pay raise last year.
So individual delegates filed nearly a dozen different resolutions scalling down the commission's recommendations. These measures would have done everything from keeping legislator's salaries and expenses at the present level to giving themselves the full commission recommendations.
When the issue came to a vote in the House, 65 delegates favored a resolution granting themselves the complete increase. House Speaker John Hanson Briscoe since has pointed out that, if this bloc of votes sticks together, any alternate resolution - including the one the senators passed yesterday - will have difficulty winning a majority of votes in the 141-member House.
According to state law, if no alternate pay resolution is agreed upon, the salaries and the new $50 limit on the daily expense allowance for legislators - up from the current $35 - automatically go into effect.
The brief debate on the salary issue in the Senate yesterday ended with several senators engaging in a tongue-in-cheek denunciation of the state house press corps for the reporting of this issue. One of the reporters, Sen. John A. Cade (D-Anne Arundel) charged," calls us freeloaders when he's been bumming cigarettes off me for years."