JEFFERSON CITY - In an angry and bitter Senate debate Tuesday, Missouri state senators delayed action on a resolution that would have rejected a raise for themselves.
The resolution, proposed by Sen. Marvin Singleton, R-Joplin, would reject the 5.5 percent pay increase for legislators that was recommended by the Missouri Citizens' Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials in November. The Senate Rules Committee unanimously approved Singleton's resolution Monday.
But after hours of filibustering by senators Tuesday, including Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, Singleton withdrew the resolution. If the Senate does not reject the commission's recommendations by Feb. 1, the pay raise will automatically be approved.
The raise would take effect July 1 of this year and would continue through fiscal year 2003.
During Tuesday's session, several Democratic senators opposed Singleton's resolution, saying it would be a mistake for the Senate to interfere with the work of the salary commission -- a 22-member group which was created to independently make salary decisions. They also said the legislature could later decide not to fund the increase during the appropriations process.
Sen. Danny Staples, D-Eminence, in a biting exchange with Singleton, said that blocking the commission's recomendation would ignore the people's will.
"Don't stand here and say, senator, this salary commission don't know what they're talking about when the people of the state of Missouri elected this salary commission," Staples said. "They seek the law of the land, Senator, and here we are trying to ignore what the people want."
Jacob said an increase is necessary to reward hard working legislators and attract quality candidates to run for office.
"I don't understand why we don't value the work of people who make powerful decisions that affect everybody in the state of Missouri," Jacob said.
Currently, the base salary for a state legislator exceeds $31,000 per year. Under the pay plan, it would climb to in excess of $34,000 in 2003.
Tension rose in the floor debate when Jacob and Sen. John Schneider, D-Florissant in St. Louis County, said Singleton was grandstanding for the press by opposing the pay increase and called him a "star." Singleton objected to the remark and invoked a Senate rule that forbids personal attacks in debate.
"I specifically reject personal assasination and character assasination in this body." Singleton said. "I think it's now time that the senior senator understand that I am not a star."
The Senate adjourned for the day without voting on the resolution - leaving it ready for further debate when the Senate meets this morning.
The Senate has until midnight, January 31 to either reintroduce Singleton's resolution or a similar measure to reject the salary commission's recommendations.