The newly formed Independent Citizens Commission met today primarily to get organized. The commission is charged with setting the salaries for all 7 constitutional officers, 135 state legislators, and all the state judges. Talk Business & Politics contributor Steve Brawner has the details on the meeting here, but I will add a few observations from the meeting as well. I also dusted off the good ole Tolbert Report flipcam just for you.
The main thing that struck me from the meeting was that the commission seems to be proceeding cautiously and in no hurry to propose salary adjustments. Despite the tight time table set up in the recently passed amendment for the “initial review,” the commission’s vice chairman tells me it may take six months to a year before final salary adjustments are set.
The amendment calls for the commission to complete its initial review of the state salaries by February 2 (90 days from the amendment’s passage), but newly elected Chairman Larry Ross thinks even this could be a challenge.
“It’s going to be challenging, but I think that we have staff in place and people in place to obtain that information. We will give it our best efforts,” said Ross. When asked if the initial review will include recommended adjustments, Ross replied, “Oh, heavens no. We will have to take it in steps. There is a time line and we will adhere to the constitutional amendment.”
The amendment gives the commission the most flexibility during their initial review. In subsequent years, the amendment limits salary adjustments to no more that 15 percent up or down for their current level but “salary adjustments resulting from the initial review” do not have this limitation. This flexibility could be key, especially for salaries for state legislators, which is currently $15,869. If limited to only a 15 percent adjustment, this would set the maximum increase at $2,380 to $18,249. This is probably lower than most legislators are expecting.
It is unclear if the “salary adjustment resulting from the initial review” needs to be finalized during the 90 day period or whether the final decision can be made after the 90 day period but as a result of the initial review.
Vice chairman Chuck Banks echoed the thoughts of Chairman Ross.
“The constitution says you review and then you establish whether or not salaries should be adjusted one way or the other. Then you have public comment. I think we review; we can do it simple and then say we are done. Then we can say here is what we found; here is what the salaries are; now we are going to the next phase,” said Banks who went on to say he thought it was unrealistic to complete the commission’s work by February and do it in a thorough, comprehensive, and transparent way. “I could see us taking six months, possibly even a full year.”
The future meeting dates of the commission are set for December 30, January 7, and January 14. The location has not been set, but there is discussion of picking a location capable of live-streaming the meeting. Good idea.
Even more interesting comments on the flip cam footage below of Ross and Banks. It seems Banks is a fan of The Tolbert Report. Thanks for reading!