Inflation triggers pay raise for members of Rhode Island General Assembly

·2 min read

Rhode Island's part-time lawmakers got a 4.7% pay raise when the new budget year began on Friday.

Their annual salaries went up by $791.26, from $16,835.37 to $17,626.63 a year. (The House speaker and the Senate president each make double that amount.)

And no, they did not vote to give themselves the raise.

Salaries for state lawmakers are governed by Article VI, Section 3 of the state Constitution, which calls for legislators’ pay to be adjusted annually based on “changes in the cost of living," as determined by the United States government during a 12-month period ending in the immediately preceding year.

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In some years, that has translated into a pay cut for the 113 legislators. As the economy sank, their annual salaries actually dropped in July 2008 and 2009. But as the economy picked up, their pay rose with it.

In recent years, not every state legislator has accepted the raise.

In election year 2018, for example, 13 representatives and 11 senators declined a raise.

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This year, only three legislators declined the raise. They are: Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere, who is not seeking reelection; newly minted House Minority Leader Michael Chippendale and Democratic Rep. Arthur Corvese.

Asked why he declined the raise, Chippendale told The Journal this is not the first time.

"When I ran in 2010 we were just beginning our economic recovery in RI and this issue was a fairly constant concern among the fiscally conservative folks in my district. The perception of people going into politics was that most were doing so for financial gain.

"I made it very clear in 2010 that I wasn’t doing it for that reason and that I would back up my words with action. I haven’t taken the COLA from the legislature since 2011," he said, except once "when I didn’t get the letter to decline submitted before the deadline. ("It may have happened another year as well – but I can’t 100% recall.")

"I truly am not 'doing it for the money' and to turn down a raise when we once again find ourselves sliding into a recession is a small way to demonstrate that I was sincere then, and I remain sincere about it now,'' he said.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: RI lawmakers got automatic pay raise with start of new fiscal year