Big pay raise for city councilors appears doomed

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It doesn’t look like members of the Indianapolis City-County Council will vote to double their own pay.

With a vote on the measure set for Monday night, at least two Democratic councilors and all the council Republicans have said they will vote against the proposal to raise council pay from $11,400 to $25,000 per year.

Democrats have a one-seat majority on the 25-member legislative body.

Council Vice President Zach Adamson, a Democrat who put forward the proposal, told IBJ on Monday morning he had serious doubts about its passage and that he was disappointed in fellow councilors.

“How many other things do we have to deal with that are the right thing to do but we lack the political spine to do it?” Adamson said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s also why this hasn’t been done in a long time.”

Council pay was last adjusted in 2002. Adamson has pointed out in presentations to fellow members that council pay lags other cities. For instance, in Carmel, annual council pay is more than $22,000. The city's population is less than 90,000, while Indianapolis counts about 850,000 residents.

But several coulcilors who agreed in general that council pay should be raised said they would vote against the proposal for other reasons.

Democrat Blake Johnson posted on Facebook that “any such proposal should be done in a way that removes even the perception that we are acting only in our self-interest."

"This discussion did not take place as part of an exhaustive budget process and would require an additional appropriation of funds to make it happen–funds that could easily be used for one of the many other pressing issues before us,” Johnson said.

He also said he felt strongly that any raise should take effect after the next City-County Council takes office in 2020, so current members aren’t guaranteed to personally benefit.

Democrat Jared Evans, who has been vocal about impending job losses at Carrier Corp. and Rexnord Corp. due to offshoring, said he wouldn’t support the raise after taking into consideration “events that have knocked the west side of Indianapolis to its knees.”

“I could not morally or ethically look one of those workers in the face and say to them, ‘I am still in the fight for your jobs,' and yet, vote to give myself a pay raise,” Evans said.

Councilors voted last year to increase their annual pay to $16,000, but the raise was vetoed by then-Mayor Greg Ballard.

Republican Jeff Miller said he is in favor of raising council pay at some point to get “true economic diversity” on the council, but said he would not support it Monday because the money for the proposal would come from interest from the city's rainy day fund and fiscal stability fund.

"Neither should be used for anyone's raise and it should be funded via a normal budget process instead,” Miller said. “The public has to be part of the discussion.”

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