City-County Council Dems seek huge pay hike

Indianapolis City-County Council Democrats have introduced a proposal that would more than double the base pay of councilors in 2020—a proposal Mayor Joe Hogsett said he would veto if passed.

The proposal was added at the last minute of Monday’s council meeting and introduced by Monroe Gray, who introduced a similar proposal last year. He eventually tabled it after hearing concerns from fellow Democrats about the size of the increase.

As currently written, council member base pay would increase from $11,400 a year to at least $24,115 beginning in April. Councilors would continue to receive per diems of $112 for each full council meeting attended (up to 21) and $62 for each committee meeting.

The increase would give members a salary equal to 16% of the amount made by Marion County Superior Court judges, who receive $150,723 per year.

Gray told IBJ Monday night he believes he has the support needed to pass the measure and that now is the time to increase the pay, which he said has been stagnant throughout his 30-year tenure on the council except for small increases in the stipends councilors get for attending meetings.

But Hogsett said in a written statement he’s prepared to veto the raise should it pass the council.

“The City-County Council has long been comprised of public servants that are generous with their time and energy in order to make Indianapolis a better place for all,” he said. “While recent conversations about updating long-stagnant Council compensation are understandable, I have significant concerns about the substance and timing of this proposed change.”

Hogsett did not specifically say what his concerns are. His office did not immediately respond to an email from IBJ seeking comment.

The proposal, which has been referred to the Rules and Public Policy Committee, comes less than two weeks after Election Day, when Democrats gained a super-majority control of the 25-member council.

When asked whether Democrats would try to override a Hogsett veto, which requires support from two-thirds of the council, or 17 members, Gray said Hogsett wouldn’t want to have that fight.

“I think there are going to be 20 Democrat councilors, and I don’t think this is a fight the mayor wants to start the year off with,” he said.

The timing of the proposed pay increases also drew criticism from Marion County GOP members.

“Not even two weeks have passed since Democrats took super-majority control of city government, and they’ve wasted no time enacting their liberal, big-spending agenda,” Party Chair Cindy Kirchhofer said in a written statement. “Today, Democratic Councillor Monroe Gray announced his intention to increase the salary of city-county councillors, and if it passes, it would go into effect just as his new majority is taking the reins.”

“It’s an early Christmas for the Democrats,” outgoing Minority Leader Michael McQuillen added.  “This must be how they reward themselves for their electoral victories—with taxpayer dollars.”

The council pay issue has been politically fraught for years. Democrats have met opposition before when they’ve tried to raise pay on the council, which is considerably less than in many other municipalities, including Carmel, where city councilors were expected to earn a base salary of $21,062 in 2019.

Last year, Gray introduced a proposal that would have paid councilors 17.5% of what judges earn, but Democrats eventually tabled the measure.

Council members voted in 2015 after the municipal election to give themselves a 44 percent raise, but the proposal was vetoed by outgoing Republican Mayor Greg Ballard. In early 2016, the council failed to overturn Ballard’s veto.

And later in 2016, council Democrats tried again, only to eventually kill a proposal to double their pay without a discussion.

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7 thoughts on “City-County Council Dems seek huge pay hike

    1. I agree the optics do not look good. But, even double their pay would work out to about $24,000 a year, which is not that much more than a low-level part-time jobs would pay. There are better and more reliable ways to make money than going through the effort of trying to get elected to the City-County Council. If that is someone’s “get rich” scheme, then bless them, they must truly need the money. Also, the extra salary expense is not going to make a difference one way or the other as far as an over $1 billion city budget is concerned. I will not start worrying until they try to quadruple their pay.

  1. Of course they are. And only a handful are of any value to their respective districts due to their incompetence. Such a wave of newcomers is unlikely to help things either.

  2. Anyone who spends time attending Council and committee hearings knows the amount of time each of these Councillors put into their position.
    I doubt anyone complaining about the pay increase would commit that much time for the amount of pay they receive.
    And to the Republican Party Chair Cindy Kirchhofer’s comment about “enacting their liberal, big-spending agenda”, could we please stop the “canned” responses. Since when is getting paid appropriately a liberal agenda.
    Ms. Kirchhofer might want to review a Star article from December 2015 titled “Part-time lawmakers, full-time pay?” in reference to our Indiana Legislature, of which Ms. Kirchhofer is a member. In that article it stated, “An Indianapolis Star review of lawmaker compensation found that legislators receive an average of about $60,000 a year. Some receive more than $70,000. That’s far more than the average Hoosier (Indiana’s median household income is $48,248). It’s also similar to what lawmakers in some states receive for working full time.”

  3. One item not mention is if the Council pay raises the Mayor’s pay must raise also by same percentage. This could be the reason the Mayor does not want to approve. It would be a large expense in the budget to raise 25 Councillor’s pay and the Mayors by 16% or more.
    I voted this down as one of my last votes in Caucus in 2015 as an At Large Councilor. It made more sense to ask for a small 2% raise with others in 2 to 4 years out if the City took in more money that they were in 2015. My idea was poo pooed.
    Many do not understand this part time Job takes a lot more time than 20 hours a week. Just to vote on a proposal can take many hours of research and meetings to put your stamp on it with a yea or nae. Part time is a misstatement.

    1. Again, they knew what the pay was going in and the hours required. Some of these councilors are also city employees. They should be barred from “double dipping”. Do you think someone can get hired at Dollar General making $7.50/hr and then demanding as soon as they get hired that they give them $15/hr.