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Council fails to overturn Ballard’s veto on pay raises

January 11, 2016

The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night failed to override former Mayor Greg Ballard’s veto on a proposal that would have given council members a $5,000 annual raise.

The motion to overturn the veto was voted down 14-10, despite pleas from council members who say the body has not had a pay raise in nearly 15 years. Overturning the veto would have required 17 votes.

Proponents of raising council members’ salaries from $11,400 to $16,400 a year say the council requires much more time than a typical part-time job, and that the low pay means that modest earners can’t afford to sit on the council.

“As a single dad, I can tell you it’s tough having a young son,” said Republican councilman Jeff Miller. “[We’re creating] a job where there’s no way you can hold it unless you’re independently wealthy. It’s tough when you’re not. I’m really sorry people think we’re not worth $16,000."

The raise would have been paid with money saved when seats for four at-large members of the City-County Council were eliminated this year.

The proposal originally passed the full council in December, but was vetoed by Ballard, who said the proposal was done in “the political dark of night” without sufficient input from the public.

Republican Councilman Jack Sandlin echoed Ballard’s concerns Monday night, saying he believed it would be better done as part of the next budget-making process.

“This was brought up at the last minute,” Sandlin said. “I would like to see us not override this veto but entertain a new proposal where we can get the word out to the community … we can get proper testimony."

A provision in the bill that would have also raised the mayor’s salary was scrapped during the committee process after new Mayor Joe Hogsett, who has a reputation for being frugal, asked to be excluded from the bill.

Republican Councilman Jeff Coats said he voted against it in the spirit of the new mayor, who talked after being elected about the importance of eliminating Indianapolis’ $50 million structural deficit. He said it would be unseemly to approve a raise in light of that.

“This is small ... compared to that amount of money in the grand scheme of things,” Coats said. “[But] it paints a picture I don’t want to paint."
 

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