Md. Senate turns back pay cut proposed by Harris
The Democrat-led Maryland Senate on Wednesday soundly rejected a proposal by a Republican member running for Congress that would have reduced state lawmakers' pay by 2 percent in coming years.
During a testy partisan debate, Democrats argued that the measure proposed by Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) was unnecessary because most senators have voluntarily returned a portion of their pay during the past two years out of solidarity with furloughed state employees.
The measure proposed by Harris would have amended a bill denying lawmakers a pay raise in coming years.
Harris, who is seeking to oust Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) in the 1st Congressional District, said furloughed state employees have not had a choice about a pay reduction in recent years, and argued that senators should not either.
"We're in the midst of a tremendous budget crisis," Harris told his colleagues. "We should lead by example on this."
Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) pointedly asked Harris if he was among the 41 senators who gave up a portion of their pay voluntarily this year.
Harris did not return a portion of his pay to the state but said he had instead given the money to charity.
"Would you like to see the canceled check?" Harris shot back at Madaleno.
"Are these the first charitable donations you've ever made?" Madaleno asked Harris.
Harris said he was offended by the question and that he had made a better choice because the state "has wasted money."
"My choice might be better," Harris said. "It's not about whether I chose charity or the comptroller."
The amendment failed 15 to 31, with votes breaking largely along party lines.
Among those who did not appreciate the Harris amendment was Patrick Moran, the Maryland director of AFSCME, the largest state employees union.
"This is just partisan nonsense to the highest degree," Moran said. "He ought to be ashamed of himself."
The Senate earlier adopted a separate amendment by Harris that would strip lawmakers convicted of felonies of their pension benefits. The bill will be back on the floor again in coming days for a final vote.
February 17, 2010; 12:02 PM ET
Categories: General Assembly , John Wagner
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