But while county employees have been threatened with furloughs, salary freezes and layoffs, the County Council will get raises. That's right, County Executive Jack Johnson and nine council members will get 5.3 percent raises when the fiscal 2010 budget kicks in in July.
Why hasn't the council stopped this? They say they can't.
Council member Eric Olson said he was advised by legal counsel that state law prevents a sitting council from changing its pay.
"I can't do anything about the current situation, other than give my money back voluntarily," Olson said. "But it's not a mandate."
Well ain't that a kick to the ol' Jolly Rogers for all the county workers scared about losing their jobs.
While they're still going to get their raises this time around, four council members, led by Olson, have sponsored a bill that would keep future councils from getting pay raises when county employees don't get an increase. So in theory the council can block salary increases beginning with the fiscal 2012 budget.
Too little, too late? Depends on who you ask.
"It's the fair thing to do," said council member William A. Campos, one of the sponsors. "If our employees are not getting raises because of tough economic times, then neither should we."
Vince Canales, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89, said he was unhappy that the council and its legal staff did not develop a better solution. The union had proposed that the county reallocate the money in next year's budget.
"It's ridiculous that they would think that this is a fair fix," Canales said. "People are affected today, and I can't believe that there is nothing they can do to take care of this issue."
Under the county charter, salaries for the executive and council are adjusted every year in December, based on the consumer price index for the Washington area.
With the raises, Johnson will make $183,222, up $9,222 from this year. Council members' basic salary will increase by $3,204, to $100,291; that does not include additional pay for the chairman and vice chairman.
The measure needs five votes for approval.