NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Monday, July 19, 1999
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (202) 296-2787

Coalition Criticizes House Passage of Congressional, Presidential Pay Raises

Opponents of the proposed $4,600 congressional pay raise and $200,000 presidential pay raise sent letters today to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) criticizing House passage of the salary hikes.

On July 15, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Treasury and General Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2000, which advanced the congressional and presidential pay raises. The proposed raises would boost the base congressional salary to $141,300 per year, and would double the presidential salary to $400,000 per year.

Signatories to the letters include Ralph Nader; Gary Ruskin, Director, Congressional Accountability Project; Peter J. Sepp, Vice President for Communications, National Taxpayers Union; Russell Verney, Chairman, Reform Party; Paul Weyrich, President, Free Congress Foundation; and Steve Dasbach, National Director, Libertarian National Committee.

Following is the text of the letter.

Dear Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader Gephardt:

We are writing to express our outrage at the passage of a $4,600 pay raise for Members of Congress and a $200,000 raise for the President of the United States of America.

Members of Congress currently earn a generous salary of $136,700 per year, plus generous pensions, perquisites and benefits. They neither need nor deserve yet another raise.

During the last ten years, House Members gave themselves five pay raises, Senators six. Congressional salaries grew by $47,200 -- more than $15,000 above inflation. In 1989, the base congressional salary was $89,500.

The President doesn't need a raise either. The President currently enjoys a salary of $200,000 per year, with perquisites, a $50,000 expense allowance, living expense benefits that befit a king, plus a near certain prospect, if desired, of becoming a multimillionaire upon leaving office. The value of a presidential pension is $152,000 annually in fiscal year 1999. Ten years ago, according to The New York Times, Lloyd Cutler, then-chairman of the Commission on Executive, Legislative and Judicial Salaries, estimated that the value of president perquisites was then about $500,000 per year. Presidential candidates Elizabeth Dole, Dan Quayle and Steve Forbes have all stated they oppose this $200,000 presidential pay raise.

The Members of Congress and the President draw salaries from a federal government that is currently $5.6 trillion in debt. If we are to reduce the federal debt, the upper reaches of government must lead by example, and sacrifice for the good of our country. That means the President and Members of Congress first. Our nation's frugality should begin in the homes of our top elected officials.

Citizens are greatly pleased when their elected leaders show some honor, dignified self-restraint and humility, and forgo a pay raise. Their moral authority grows. This intangible virtue and integrity is very important.

If cooler heads do not prevail and reconsider these raises, then the Members of Congress who voted for them will be called to account for their greed in next year's elections.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader
Gary Ruskin, Director, Congressional Accountability Project
Peter J. Sepp, Vice President for Communications, National Taxpayers Union
Russell Verney, Chairman, Reform Party
Paul Weyrich, President, Free Congress Foundation
Steve Dasbach, National Director, Libertarian National Committee

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