Local freelance “journalist” Art Kane came under heavy criticism last year after writing a series of news articles for the Denver Post that inaccurately disparaged the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare, in Colorado. And these weren’t small inaccuracies, either, but wild factual exaggerations and totally unsubstantiated hearsay horror stories that fell apart under casual scrutiny.
Since then, Kane has taken up with a “news” outlet much better suited to his particular brand of hackery: the conservative Watchdog.org website run by the Franklin Center for Public Integrity. The stories may not be any more accurate–but Kane’s new bosses aren’t concerned with, you know, accuracy.
Today’s Art Kane feature story on per diem pay for Colorado state legislators at Colorado Watchdog is an excellent case in point:
Colorado lawmakers who live outside the metro area will get a bump in their per diem next session, making that state’s reimbursements the second highest in the country and costing taxpayers an additional $35,000 next year…
The per diem rate for lawmakers living outside the metro area will go up to $195 a day next session; state law sets it at 85 percent of the federal government per diem for the Denver Metro area, which also increased this year. The cost to taxpayers is an additional $35,000 a year, legislative staff wrote in an email exchange with Watchdog.org.
Colorado Union of Taxpayers president Gregory Golyansky said he was upset when he learned from last week’s Watchdog.org story the per diem expenses cost taxpayers so much money, and that raising the costs next year isn’t appropriate.
Setting aside Colorado Union of Taxpayers president Gregory Golyansky’s major credibility problems, with which our readers are very well acquainted, there’s a very large part of the story of this increase in per diem that Art Kane isn’t telling you:
National Conference of State Legislatures data shows the increase will skyrocket Colorado to the second highest per diem after Alaska, which pays lawmakers $235 a day if they live outside the capital area…
This year, Kentucky, Alaska and Tennessee had higher per diems, but Colorado will surpass those states unless their per diem rates increase. Expensive states such as Hawaii, New York and California reimbursed their lawmakers less than Colorado, NCSL data shows. [Pols emphasis]
As we read this story claiming that “expensive states” like Hawaii, New York, and California “reimbursed their lawmakers less than Colorado,” we remembered something very important: in Colorado, legislators don’t even make enough to survive. Here’s what the National Conference of State Legislatures really says about the salaries of lawmakers in the states listed above:
California: $90,526 per year
Hawaii: $57,852 per year
New York: $79,500 per year
Colorado: $30,000 per year [Pols emphasis]
This list doesn’t take into account which of these legislatures are “part time” versus “full time,” but that really doesn’t matter: Colorado legislators routinely draw per diem pay for events they attend throughout the year. Most of our lawmakers in either party will tell you that serving in the Colorado General Assembly is very much a full-time commitment. And that means except for the very young and very rich, it’s a huge financial hardship.
And in terms of their total compensation, which is of course the bottom line, Colorado lawmakers earn a tiny fraction of what legislators in these other states make. And that makes Art Kane’s latest big story…well, another steaming pile of bullshit.
Back in 2012, we were critical of a bill to raise per diem pay for legislators, mostly because at that time state employees had not received a raise in several years due to recession-forced pay freezes. Then-majority House Republicans rushing the bill through with no debate didn’t help the optics either. With that said, there’s no question that pay for lawmakers in Colorado is, at this point, a major disincentive to public service.
If Art Kane would like to write a factual story, perhaps he should start there instead.