The Fees, Salaries and Administration Committee of the Mississippi Senate will consider SB 2506 later this week. The bill, which has been filed by District 18 Senator Giles Ward, would reduce salaries paid legislators by 10% through the end of their current term. Because of a provision contained in Section 64 of the 1890 Mississippi Constitution, an increase or decrease in legislative compensation cannot take effect during the same legislative session in which it is enacted. Consequently, if passed, the legislation could not constitutionally be effective until January 1, 2011. Ward has filed a companion bill (SC 545) which, if passed by the Legislature, would place on the ballot in the November 2010 General Election a Constitutional Amendment that would remove the restriction prohibiting the Legislature from reducing legislative compensation in the year it is enacted.
“I find it very difficult to consider the numerous pieces of proposed legislation dealing with our current budget crisis and the significant consequences they potentially represent to thousands of employees of the State of Mississippi and their families without first addressing my own paycheck. I hope most of my colleagues in the Legislature feel the same way,” Ward said. “There will, no doubt, be reasons that those who oppose this legislation will offer in opposition to its passage. Many, if not all, of those reasons will have merit. However, these reasons will probably be no more meritorious than those offered by other employees and agencies as they face reductions in their own appropriations.”
Ward further stated that the proposed Constitutional amendment he has filed would remove a serious impediment to legislators in the future when trying to develop a state budget while at the same time dealing with revenue shortfall. “I’m sure the framers of our Constitution had good reasons for writing Section 46 of the Constitution as they did back in 1890,” Ward said, “but I believe whatever good it may potentially have had back then is far outweighed by the need for expedient budgeting in times like those we are facing now.”
Regardless of the outcome of his proposed legislation, Ward has announced his intention to direct the Comptroller of the Senate to reduce his salary by ten percent effective immediately. “I’m doing this as a matter of personal conscious,” Ward said. “These are some of the most difficult days our state has ever faced. I see this as an opportunity to become a personal stakeholder in the decisions that are made. I think that is an important responsibility I hold as a legislator.”
Ward is a first term Republican Senator representing Leake, Neshoba and Winston Counties.