Senator Dillon Submits Bill to Cut Lawmakers’ Pay -As Economy Hits Rock Bottom; But Rep. Gray Reacts
Liberia’s economic situation worsened with the advent of the Ebola crisis in 2014. The World Bank had just projected that the Liberian economy would have grown seven percent by 2014, but the damage caused by the Ebola epidemic reduced it to less than one percent, according to International Monetary Fund statistics. Six years down the road, the country is in even worse economic straits, as the Coronavirus pandemic takes its toll on global economies. Compounding this gloomy outlook is the fact that nearly 80% of the country’s $526 million national budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 basically services recurrent expenditures such as salaries for public service personnel. Against such a gloomy outlook, the 54th Legislature’s maverick lawmaker, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, has submitted to Plenary a bill that would set $5000 as the monthly remuneration ceiling for all legislators.
In a letter dated August 11, 2020 to the President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate which was read on the Senate floor Thursday, Senate Dillon said his action to submit the Bill titled: “An Act Fixing the Monthly Remuneration of the Legislature” is based on Article 7 of the Constitution of Liberia which essentially provides that the Republic shall manage the national economy and natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia.
“It is no telling that the economy of our country has experienced incremental decline over the years, especially since the Republic was hit by the Ebola crisis. To compound this situation, the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the economic decline, thereby gravely affecting the revenue generating capacity of the Government of Liberia,” Senator Dillon said.
Acknowledging that the nation is indeed facing tough economic times, Senator Dillon reasoned that, “with our prevailing economic situation, coupled with projections from credible financial institutions such as the World Bank projecting further decline in economic growth, it will require sound financial and fiscal discipline, and huge sacrifices by national leaders to judiciously allocate scarce public resources so as to meet the general good of our people,” Senator Dillon informed President Pro Tempore, Senator Albert T. Chie.
“In consideration of the above, I hereby respectfully submit, through your good office, to the Plenary, a Draft Act, seeking to set and enact the monthly salaries, allowances and benefits to not more than $5,000 (Five Thousand United States Dollars) or the equivalent in Liberian Dollars for Members of the Legislature, in keeping with Article 36 of the Constitution of Liberia,” the Montserrado County lawmaker, who goes fondly by the moniker “The Light”, stated.
Rep. Acarous Gray Takes Serious Exception
Meanwhile, Montserrado County District # 8 lawmaker, Representative Moses Acarous Gray, has vowed that the Bill introduced by Senator Dillon will not see the light of day.
Speaking to the press Thursday in reaction to Senator Dillon’s Bill, Representative Gray said financial bills cannot originate from the Senate, rather, such bills must come from the House of Representatives.
“Having listened to Senator Dillon presenting a political bill and not really an economic bill, with the quest of being reelected, the bill is dead upon arrival,” Rep. Gray stated.
Recalling how Senator Dillon referenced Article 36 of the Liberian Constitution to justify his bill to reduce lawmakers salaries and benefits, Representative Gray reminded the public about Article 34 D (i) which also states that: all revenue bills, whether subsidies, charges, imposts, duties or taxes, and other financial bills, shall originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may propose or concur with the amendments as on other bills. No other financial charge shall be established, fixed, laid or levied on any individual, community or locality under any pretext whatsoever except by the expressed consent of the individual, community or locality. In all such cases, a true and correct account of funds collected shall be made to the community or locality.
“The senator has demonstrated maximum illiteracy, maximum ineptitude,” Rep. Gray charged, noting that Senator Dillon has breached the Liberian Constitution by crafting and submitting a financial or revenue bill.
Rep. Gray said, for the Senate to entertain the reading of that bill is a breach of the Liberian Constitution, which will not be tolerated in the House of Representatives.
“The Constitution of Liberia gives them the authority to confirm. It is a usurpation of the functions of the House of Representatives,” Rep. Gray said.
The Montserrado D-8 lawmaker said Senator Dillon should have been crafty enough to send the bill to members of the Collaborating Political Parties in the Lower House for them to introduce the bill.