'We reversed it': Michigan redistricting commission nixes 7% raise

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

The Michigan Independent Redistricting Commission voted Thursday to reverse a 7% raise its 13 commissioners had approved a month prior.

After deadlocking earlier this month when a motion was made to reconsider, the commission voted 12-1 Thursday to kill the raise.

"We decided it wasn't a wise decision to have gone up 7%," non-affiliated Commissioner Steven Lett said in a press conference on Zoom after the vote. "So we reversed it."

Democratic commissioner Brittni Kellom opposed the move.

The commission in December passed three new maps that will decide the state's political future in congressional, state House and state Senate races.

More:Michigan redistricting panel wraps adoption of state House, Senate, congressional maps

The commission has been sued for the maps, thus far unsuccessfully. 

The raise, coming two months after the maps were approved, was controversial considering the commission faced a $1.2 million shortfall. Some Republican lawmakers also said they were unlikely to approve more funding for the commission to cover the raises.

More:Redistricting commission gives itself 7% pay increases despite $1.2M shortfall

On March 10, Michigan's redistricting commissioners stood by the 7% pay increases, rejecting a motion to reconsider the increase after a public backlash. The commission had approved a "cost of living adjustment" that would increase their annual salaries from $55,000 to $59,000. 

Some commissioners had argued a pay decrease was in order because group members' work had decreased since voting district maps were adopted in December. Others argued they still had work to do and couldn't take on other jobs while working for the commission. 

"Certainly, there have been a number of public comments that weren't very complimentary," Lett said Thursday. "We took those into consideration, and all the commissioners gave it a second thought."

More:Redistricting commission gives itself 7% pay increases despite $1.2M shortfall

Pay will stay as is, at 35% of the governor's salary, of $55,000.

"They do listen to public feedback," said commission spokesman Edward Woods. "They do listen to public concern. Obviously, it was a hard decision."

On April 1, Woods will take over as the commission's executive director as the board prepares to dissolve.

Thursday's meeting was the last for Executive Director Sue Hammersmith. She and Lett described the job as "herding cats."

Dustin Witjes, one of the commissioners, described Hammersmith as a calming, grandmotherly presence.  

"You understood that we all didn't know what we were doing," Commission Chair MC Rothhorn said to Hammersmith. "You helped us stay human and be human."