In a time when many find it hard to believe the government will ever stop abusing tax payer dollars, it can be even harder to accept that they’d turn down a pay raise.
However, for the third year in a row the U.S. House of Representatives voted against a pay raise Tuesday and U.S. Rep. Tom Cole was among those in support of the rejection. The vote, 402-15 against the hike, follows a similar move by the senate the previous week, which leaves the current annual base salary about $174,000 for both.
Cole said that with all the things the government does not get done, it is nice to show some priorities are in order. He said that with record budget deficits and spending out of control, it would not reflect well if pay were increased right now.
“It is a nice gesture, but I’d rather we make decisions that aren’t continually expanding the government,” said Cole. “This was something that was started before the financial crisis to set an example.”
Cole said it would also be irresponsible for elected officials to keep getting pay raises with the national unemployment rate at about 9.7 percent. It would not be fair for parts of the government to keep getting pay increases when so many other agencies and employees are cut more and more.
Cole added that since he has been in office, there have been other instances where a pay raise has been rejected, which makes it far from a new decision. Congress receives an automatic pay hike as a part of a ethics reform bill passed in 1989 and it goes through unless in cases like this a vote is held to prevent it.
Cole said that he is open to consider other alternatives to approving salary increases, though noted that there has been no real debate over declining to be paid more. The congress understands that it is a tough time for the country and has to take a leadership position.
“You’re asking people to make sacrifices,” said Cole. “Congress doesn’t do much right, but this is one of the few.”