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Georgia Senate advances bill to slash paychecks for legislators

State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, gives a thumbs-up after his bill, SB 375, was approved   on March 12, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, gives a thumbs-up after his bill, SB 375, was approved on March 12, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Measure was initially designed to grant paid family leave to state workers

The Georgia Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would slash paychecks for legislators and the lieutenant governor, a gesture aimed at mirroring recent coronavirus-related budget cuts.

House Bill 1094 would trim salaries for members of the General Assembly by 11%, to about $15,000 a year, and for Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan by 14%, to just under $55,000, for the 2020 and 2021 budget years. The measure, which cleared the Senate on a 43 to 3 margin, now heads to the House for its approval.

The pandemic has blown a massive hole into the state’s income and sales tax collections. Budget writers are currently finalizing a blueprint that will cut spending at state agencies by about 10%.

Trimming legislators’ pay “is making a statement that we’re all in this together,” said Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga in a floor speech. “To work together, to suffer together, to sacrifice together, to make our salaries the same as the cut.”

When the Georgia House advanced H.B. 1094 in March, it had no language regarding legislator pay. It instead would have given nearly 250,000 state employees three weeks of paid parental leave for the first time.

Republican senators stripped the parental leave language from the proposal earlier this week. Some suggested it could be attached to other legislation, and House boosters say they’re still optimistic it can be passed it some other form before the end of the week.

Georgia has long ranked among the bottom of states requiring paid leave benefits, but top officials have showed a new willingness to consider perks for new parents over the past year as national politics have shifted on the issue.

The original bill would have allowed new moms and dads — including K-12 teachers and University System of Georgia staffers — to take three weeks off following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. Currently, state employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, which employers must offer under federal law.

Staff writer Maya T. Prabhu contributed to this article.