D.C. Council: 2nd-highest paid in U.S.
D.C. Council members are the second-highest paid big-city legislators in the nation and spend more on staff and other expenses than any other city-level lawmaking body in the nation, according to a newly released report by the Pew Charitable Trust.
The report, compiled by the Trust’s Philadelphia Research Initiative, spent several months compiling data from the city councils for the nation’s 15 major cities, including Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix , Baltimore, Houston, Dallas, Pittsburgh and the District.
For years, the six-figure salaries given to District council members has been a point of contention because the positions are considered part-time and legislators are allowed to hold other jobs.
But the Pew report, issued Wednesday morning, is likely to renew the debate locally about whether the 12 members of the council deserve their $125,583 annual salary. D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) makes $190,000 a year, $10,000 less than the mayor.
After averaging the council members and chairman’s salaries, Pew pegged a District council member’s salary at $130,538.
The District trails only Los Angeles, where council members make $178,789, in what it pays the members of its legislative body. Council members in Los Angeles are considered full time and do not hold other jobs, according to the report. New York, where council members make $121,727, ranks third.
Several D.C. Council members strongly defend their salaries, saying it’s misleading to clump them in with other cities. As the report noted, District council members say they are both state legislators and council members, roles that make their job well worth the money.
“No other city in the country confronts the kinds of issues confronted by ours,” said council member David Catania (I-At Large). “It’s frankly absurd to compare us to other cities. Cities don’t organize prison systems. Cities don’t organize mental health systems. ... Cities don’t have oversight over electricity regulation. ... We are a state, county and city all under one roof.”
Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) was even more blunt.
“We deserve more, quite frankly,” Barry said. “This government is the most unique government of any government in the world. ... We put in 40 or 50 hours a week in addition to constituent service. I think we are really underpaid.”
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