August 29, 2010

Ali brags about volunteer furlough, then 'forgets' to take it

Del. Saqib Ali, a Montgomery County Democrat running in a competitive Senate primary, sent out a campaign mailer recently that touted his decision to take voluntary furlough days.

“To help close the budget deficit, he even volunteered to cut his own pay, despite having a young family to feed,” the missive boasted.

The only problem: The ambitious young delegate wasn’t participating in the furlough program this year. Asked about the claim this week, he said his failure to sign up was an oversight, and he quickly joined the program. Furloughs are tricky for lawmakers, who rely on a constitutionally ordered compensation commission to set their salaries. Most earn make $43,500 per year. For the past three years, however, most have voted to impose pay reductions on the thousands of state workers.

In a show of solidarity many have elected to garnish their own wages. Most lawmakers take eight days, the number that has been required of state employees making $40,000 to $50,000. Of the 141 delegates, 68 disclosed that they volunteered to take furlough days this year. Thirty-one of the state’s 47 Senators also signed up – including Sen. Nancy King, whom Ali is hoping to unseat. Curiously, lawmakers have been more stingy this year — an election year. Last year 114 delegates volunteered to have pay reductions and 40 senators did so. Ali opted to take eight voluntary furlough days last year — giving the state $966.72. King also took eight days.

Notified that he was not on this year’s list, Ali responded indignantly, offering to show his pay stubs to prove his participation. After reviewing documents provided by The Baltimore Sun, he explained that he had improperly assumed his participation in last year’s program extended to the current fiscal year. “It was just an oversight,” he said.

The lawmaker had apparently not seen a June memo from House Speaker Michael E. Busch explaining how delegates could participate in this year’s program. But he quickly located the necessary forms Thursday and signed up for 10 days of furloughs, putting an extra $1,208.40 into the state coffers. SOURCE: Baltimore Sun

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