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An Open Letter to House and Senate Conferees: Include Pay Freeze Provision in Final Version of H.R. 3058
November 8, 2005
On behalf of the 350,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I write to express support for a measure contained in the Senate version of H.R. 3058 (The Transportation, Treasury, HUD, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act) that would block the automatic 1.9 percent Congressional salary increase for 2006. Because this provision was not included in the House?s version of the legislation, the decision to incorporate this pay hold in the final language of the bill lies with you.
Although freezing Congressional salaries will save the Treasury (and taxpayers) a relatively modest $2 million, we believe this single gesture could inspire the passage of other, larger spending restraint initiatives. Furthermore, Members of Congress are already adequately compensated. Last year salaries for rank-and-file lawmakers were over three and a half times the median income of an American household, excluding generous benefits and perks.
In 1989, Members of Congress earned $89,500 per year ? since then that salary has risen by $72,600. Lawmakers have accepted pay increases for seven of the last eight years, even after the horrific events of September 11th and the subsequent economic downturn. With the cost of rebuilding the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast looming large on the federal balance sheet, now is an equally unseemly time for another Congressional pay grab. Instead, Conferees should seize this unique opportunity to demonstrate personal leadership in bringing the federal budget deficit back under control.
In previous times that have tested the mettle of our people, Congress has led by example. During the Depression era, lawmakers actually reduced their salaries in 1932 and 1933. During World War II, Members selflessly did without salary increases, and did not contemplate pay raises until 1947. In 1942, Congress suspended its two-month-old pension plan until 1946.
Against these historical standards, taxpayers are asking Members of the current Congress to do far less. Although H.R. 3058 is a far from desirable legislative package overall, our 350,000 members urge you to answer this modest call for fiscal, political, and moral responsibility by including the 2006 pay freeze for Senators and Representatives in the final version of the bill.
Peter J. Sepp