The costs of MLA salaries and constituent allowances will increase the government’s budget by about $190,000 next year.
However, Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson said that does not mean MLAs are getting a big pay increase. Rather, most of the money is going toward the salary and constituent office of Cayman’s 19th member of the Legislative Assembly.
The $190,000 increase factors in salary of office, as well as what it costs to pay for an additional “constituency allowance” for the new elected position.
When Cayman switches to its new single-member district voting system at the next general election, it will also add one more MLA to the current total of 18. The extra legislative seat will be in what is now known as George Town district, based on the current population of eligible voters.
Mr. Jefferson confirmed this week that a “modest” increase in salary budget for the MLAs, the governor and the deputy governor in the upcoming 2016/17 budget represents about a 2 percent increase in annual spending.
“It should be noted that an additional MLA will be added in [late] May and this would necessitate the increased costs,” Mr. Jefferson said.
The additional costs amount to about $100,000 in spending for the remaining seven months of the 2016/17 budget year, the financial secretary said.
Another increased cost is for constituency allowances provided to MLAs. According to Mr. Jefferson, the planned increase is about $89,600 for the year, again anticipating the addition of the new MLA.
“Constituency allowances are available to all MLAs to fund constituency offices and support personnel,” he said. “The amount is pro-rated when constituency offices are shared by MLAs.”
This is what happens now with lawmakers in the more populous voting districts who are of the same political parties or groups sharing office space. Mr. Jefferson said he expects that arrangement to continue.
He said government paid about $685,000 in the 2015/16 budget for the operation of district representative offices. It would be more costly overall if each of the 19 MLAs elected in the next general election decided to operate their own district offices.
The MLA offices are either rented or owned accommodations where politicians meet with constituents, hold caucus meetings or plan election strategies. They operate on a cost-sharing basis which provides less individual funding to MLAs who have more members in the various offices.
The maximum amount a single MLA can receive for a constituency allowance is $4,000 per month, but it has been the practice in recent years to share costs. In West Bay, where Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and MLAs Bernie Bush and Capt. Eugene Ebanks share an office, the allowance payment is $2,400 for each MLA.
In George Town, where Premier Alden McLaughlin, Ministers Kurt Tibbetts and Marco Archer and MLAs Joey Hew and Roy McTaggart share an office, each member receives $2,000 in constituent allowances.
This story mas been modified from the original.