29 April 2009

Maximum salary law passes Senate

The News

The Senate approved a bill on Tuesday that forbids any public servant from earning more than the president, who is paid a net salary of 148,015 pesos per month. The Maximum Salary Law was unanimously approved by the upper house of Congress and now goes to President Felipe Calderón for his approval.

Lawmakers said the law would curb salary abuses that result in some municipal and state politicians earning salaries that exceed those of cabinet members and the president. The law, according to Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, Sen. Pablo Gómez, “Restores the practice of public service that is so discredited in our country.”

Other lawmakers also lauded the measure as a step toward improved transparency and good governance.

“It makes transparent the salaries of public servants, establishes the principle of a labor hierarchy because no low-level [functionary] can earn more than a high-level functionary and, additionally, it establishes the better use of public resources,” said National Action Party, or PAN, Sen. Santiago Creel.

A law for limiting salaries was originally approved by the Senate in 2006, but died in committee after arriving in the Chamber of Deputies. The PRD revived the proposal earlier this year as an austerity measure during tough economic times and firebrand populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador has railed against highly paid public figures during his rallies. But momentum for the law came after the Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE, approved pay rises of nearly 100 percent for its nine-member board. The IFE argued that the pay rise was constitutional, but it was quickly reversed the decision and lawmakers seized on the public-relations misstep as an opportunity to rein in high public salaries.

Still, some public salaries will go untouched by the new law. The law fails to touch the salaries of Supreme Court judges along with members of the electoral tribunal and IFE as the Constitution says that such figures cannot have their salaries reduced while occupying their current positions.

Some PAN members have questioned if reducing salaries will drive talented individuals away from the public sector.

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