The 1st Session (plus two special sessions) of the 29the Legislature have wheezed to an adjournment. There have been cranky, cantankerous, ineffective legislatures in the past but this one seems to have set a new, low benchmark, a nadir for futility. And it’s one of the longest on the books, too.
The majority caucus will tell you the heart of the problem is the fiscal crisis. But, with the help of some fine research work by Alexandra Gutierrez of APRN, WC wants to suggest the heart of the problem is something else entirely. The fact is we pay legislators a lot of money to not get things done. The longer they don’t get things done, the more we pay them. Since the problems seemed to be mostly in the state senate, WC will focus on that distinguished body. Keep in mind these sums are in addition to a pretty generous salary.
Pete Kelly, Co-Chair, Senate Finance Committee $6,423.00
That’s right, through the extended dpecial sessions Senator Kelly was paid $6,423.00. The goal of the rest of us may have been to get the peoples’ work done, but the goal of at least some of our elected representatives seems to have been to collect per diem.
Charles Huggins, Chair, Senate Rules Committee $6,329.00
These state senators responded to a financial crisis by twiddling their thumbs for weeks, all the while collecting the per diem they pay themselves for their time.
John Coghill, Jr., Senate Majority Leader $8,188.00
So Senator Pete Kelly’s refusal to hear a proposed House compromise budget earned him still more per diem. Less work; more pay.
Cathy Giessel, Chair, Senate Resources Committee $5,352.00
WC thinks we can all agree that an incentive to not get stuff done is a bad idea. And WC has a proposal to solve the present perversity.
Instead of paying the legislators to not work, why not have the legislators pay the state for not getting their work done during the regular session? Why not set up a deduction from their salaries, payable by daily increments of, say, $250.00 for each and every day a session is extended beyond the citizen-mandated 90 days? Just to make it fair, we’d impose this obligation only on the majority in each chamber. The way the legislature’s rules work, the minority can just barely go to the bathroom without permission. So we’d impose the burden on the majority. We might have to create a partial exception for Bush members, who really do incur expenses, but on the other hand holding their feet to the fire might keep them in their proper caucus. WC is thinking of one Bush member in particular, here, the champion at per diem payments:
Donnie Olson, Member, Senate Finance Committee $11,439
We could even go further and hold presidents, majority leaders, committee chairs and co-chairs more responsible for not getting stuff done. So we’d double their pay deductions to $500 per day for each day past the end of the session. There should be a price and not just perks for leadership positions.
We’d let the legislators halve the penalties, but only by a vote of 3/4ths of the members of both chambers. This rule would force the majority to treat the minority with a bit more respect.
And one final gloss: under WC’s proposed rules, if your last name was “Kelly” and the session ran long, you’d forfeit all your pay, even if it ran just one day long.
All right, maybe not the last one, but WC thinks it is worth considering.