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Committee votes to keep pay supplement for Compretta

The second-ranking officer in the Mississippi House will continue receiving a salary supplement because of the extra work he’s doing, the chamber’s Management Committee decided Wednesday.

Speaker Pro Tempore J.P. Compretta, D-Bay St. Louis, has been receiving an extra $3,300 a month since June 2004. The money is on top of the pro tem’s regular $1,250 a month.

Compretta originally received the $3,300 pay boost because he took on additional duties when Speaker Billy McCoy was hospitalized with diverticulitis. McCoy also suffered strokes in 2004.

About the time McCoy returned to full duties in late summer 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck south Mississippi.

Soon after the storm, McCoy appointed Compretta to head a hurricane recovery committee.

During a closed meeting Wednesday at the Capitol, members of the Management Committee decided Compretta should keep receiving the salary supplement because of the long hours he’s putting in for Katrina recovery.

Members said the decision was not unanimous, but they would not disclose how each person voted.

After the meeting, McCoy said Compretta is earning the extra pay because of what the coast lawmaker is doing to help people in his district and beyond.

“Every time he walks out the door, he has to respond,” McCoy said. “I don’t know of any member who has had more thrust on him.”

Rep. Rita Martinson, R-Madison, who is not on the Management Committee, sent letters to McCoy and to several Mississippi newspapers last week criticizing Compretta’s salary supplement.

Reached at home Wednesday, Martinson said her criticism is of McCoy, not Compretta.

“I really believe that this is a sign that the speaker needs to step down from office he holds,” Martinson said. “If the speaker has asked J.P. to do the duties that he should be doing, then that means he doesn’t feel he can do them adequately. We only need one speaker.”

Compretta said he wasn’t surprised by Martinson’s criticism or her response to the Management Committee’s decision about his pay.

“I think it’s strictly a political move on her part, and others’,” Compretta said. McCoy has been in the House since January 1980 and is in his first term as speaker, a leadership job chosen by House members. The speaker can largely determine the fate of most House proposals because he appoints the committee chairmen and assigns bills to committees.