Legislators Disagree about Pay

Thursday, March 12th 2009, 5:55 pm
By: News 9

By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- With the economy so bad right now, fiscal responsibility is a big theme at the Capitol this year and Democrats are trying to make the case that Republicans, who now control both the House and Senate, are setting a poor example.

They're calling the Republicans hypocrites saying they claim to be the party of leaner, more efficient government, when their actions show them to be just the opposite.

Democrats filed two resolutions this week, condemning Republican spending.

First they question the House Speaker's decision at the start of session to hire a former legislator, enlarging his staff to 10, four more than the last democratic Speaker had.

"I just don't understand why in this day when we've got near a billion dollar deficit, or at least a billion dollars less to spend, this year than last year, we're adding people to the payroll," House Democratic Leader Representative Danny Morgan said.

In a statement, Speaker Benge pointed out the House currently has a total of 29 fewer full-time employees than under a Democrat-controlled House. The House Democrats are either ignorant of this fact or have willfully chosen to ignore it.

The other resolution chides Senate leaders for giving another former lawmaker, now staffer, a nearly 50 percent raise, to $186,000.

"Fred Morgan left the Legislature in 2006, and within days or months he was working for the Republican party, and now he's the right hand man of the pro tem," Representative Richard Morrissette (D-District 91) said.

A spokesman for Pro Tem Glenn Coffee says Morrissette's figure is inaccurate and dishonest, and that, "eight hard-working professionals are doing the work of 11 staffers on the previous Democrat leadership staff, for $113,000 less than the last Democrat Pro Tem paid his staff."

Political observers say, even if the Republicans have done nothing wrong, they haven't done a very good job of communicating that.

"You cannot let the other side define what you're doing, and when it has to do with ex-legislators, that's even more incendiary, has to do with a lot of money, even more incendiary," siad NEWS 9 Political Analyst Scott Mitchell.

Democrats, and most Republicans, say they want more transparency in government and publicizing this issue, they believe, may encourage citizens to push for that as well, especially transparency in the Legislature.