Don’t Hide, Frank McNulty, We Agree!

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Patrick Malone reports today:

The Colorado House of Representatives quietly and without debate passed a bill on Wednesday that would raise the daily pay of lawmakers who live outside of Denver by 22 percent.

Pay for non-metro members of the Legislature would climb to $183 per day from $150 a day on July 1 under HB1301, which deals with appropriations for the Legislature. It is sponsored by House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, and Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs.

The pay raise would cost taxpayers an additional $189,420 to benefit 41 of the 100 members of the General Assembly, according to nonpartisan Legislative Council Staff.

McNulty said he wouldn’t call the measure a pay raise…

First of all, we’re not going to criticize this for the reasons you’re probably expecting. The fact is, as we have said many, many times, and sometimes unpopularly, Colorado legislators are underpaid. We would say the problem extends beyond legislators to statewide elected officials, whose salary is often dwarfed by subordinate employees in their office–not to mention the private-sector equivalents to their positions that would doubtless pay much more.

Malone continues:

For two years lawmakers have deferred the raise. The General Assembly passed a law separate of the legislative appropriations bill in 2010 that delayed implementation of the increase by postponing implementation of a 2008 law that raised per-diem.

“Costs have gone up over that time,” McNulty said.

He said the increase in per-diem can still be postponed. But unless it changes in the Democratically controlled Senate and returns to the Republican-controlled House, it has gained final approval in the House.

Folks, it’s not a lot of money, and it only applies to legislators who live outside the Denver metro area. The travel and accommodation burdens on those legislators are substantial. While it’s never popular for politicians to ask for pay increases, that unpopularity has led to a situation in Colorado where the compensation by any professional measure is grossly inadequate.

With all of this in mind, and given our previous position on the issue…what’s upset us about this bill, you ask? Well, as Malone reports, House Bill 12-1301 was never actually debated. It was passed “tucked behind a morning of feel-good speeches” about unrelated subjects–Rep. Ed Vigil, who voted against, said he was “really surprised” by the lack of any debate.

It’s tough to imagine a more stupid, backlash-inviting way to handle this. If GOP Speaker Frank McNulty wanted to increase per diem for rural legislators without trying to be sneaky about it, on the merits, we would support that. McNulty could have held a press conference with Democratic co-sponsors, and explained to the voters in clear terms why a per diem increase for legislators is necessary. We have to believe if the roles were reversed and an ounce of political capital stood to be gained, Speaker McNulty would be demanding at least that.

And even though we may agree with Speaker McNulty that a legislative per diem increase is necessary, we think it’s perfectly fair to ask him how this “pay hike for politicians” will be paid for. Because again, folks, it’s a question McNulty would be asking himself if he wasn’t in on the deal.

It’s possible that this situation just doesn’t reinforce GOP “small government” talking points very well, folks. That’s too bad for McNulty, but trying to pass it all sneaky like won’t help.

27 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JeffcoBlue says:

    Hey Frank, how many teachers do you want to fire so you can give away the homestead exemption AND pay higher per diem to legislators?

    Remember, Frank is the one who wants you to choose.

  2. abraham says:

    It was not sneaky.  I looked at the House calendar and journal after I read the report.  First, the bill was calendared for 2nd reading floor debate the previous day.  There was plenty of opportunity for amendments and debate at that time.

    Second, it routinely went on the next day’s 3rd reading calendar – and there was plenty of opportunity for legislators to make their comments on the record as part of their recorded votes.  There was also opportunity to send the bill back to a committee or to even kill it.

    I noted that the recorded vote showed the bill passed with 34 yes votes – 33 being the minimum number required to pass a bill in the House on 3rd reading.  

    It is not uncommon for the bill that appropriates money for the legislative council staff, drafting office and the legislature moves with little debate.  It is almost a pro forma bill.

    The question you should be asking is was the increase embedded in the financing protocols adopted previously – say under a Democrat majority?  I seem to remember a controverial debate about per diems a few years back and the legislature changing the formula to recognize the big rural districts and mountain districts where you can’t get there from here.

    The bill now goes to the Senate – let’s see how Morse and Shaffer deal with it.

    • Pita says:

      You are right about the per diems debate a few years ago over the formula.  If I can find the answer, I’ll post the results.

      • JeffcoBlue says:

        The General Assembly passed a law separate of the legislative appropriations bill in 2010 that delayed implementation of the increase by postponing implementation of a 2008 law that raised per-diem.

        It’s kind of like the doc fix at the federal level, though the doc fix is a cut. In both cases it’s an unpopular provision that was passed, and now is delayed because of the politics.

        McNulty tried to slip this one past the politics, and it might not work.

    • Pita says:

      That appears to be the only per diem change.  All non-metro receive $150 per day according to the Denver daily in Dec., 2010.

  3. Diogenesdemar says:

    so many of those out-state GOPer patriots could use a larger Gummit’ handout (especially in an election year)?

  4. The realist says:

    said he was “really surprised” by the lack of any debate.”  That’s Ed not Val.

    Wonder why it seems so difficult to have a debate on the merits of the increase – in other words, what are out-state legislators finding they have to pay for temporary lodging in Denver, etc.?  

    • Pita says:

      but it isn’t cheap. That’s why so many out-state legislators rent places together.  

      Personally, I agree with raising the non-metro per diem.  It’s not just the rent but food and transportation.  

      • droll says:

        the name escapes me, has a special legislator rate. <–Just FYI. I personally wouldn’t want to live there for four months every year either.

        My feeling is that no one wants to talk about the food situation. Hotel living is awful for food budgets because you have to eat out, or buy prepared things. This used to not be such a big deal, especially with a regular hotel free breakfast, since lobbyists used to provide the rest of the meals.

        I would also bring it up preemptively for the gas prices. If gas really hits $5/gallon, a trip to Grand Junction for the weekend is going to cost.

        Being fairly liberal, I’m OK with making sure legislators have the cash to go home to their families whenever possible. They are doing the people’s work.

        If I were conservative, I might think that if you can’t afford to play, you shouldn’t run. Where’s the “personal responsibility”?

        • gertie97 says:

          worry about their transportation costs. They get mileage reimbursed at current state rates, whatever that is.

          Some years ago there was talk among rural legislators that the state might buy a small apartment house near the Capitol and make it available to outstate legislators. Nothing much came of the idea, and once term limits kicked in the idea apparently was forgotten (along with any semblance of legislators who could play well together.)

          Maybe Hick could open up the governor’s mansion to legislators just as he does for out-of-town cabinet members.

          • droll says:

            It makes me feel like there’s some predictability in my decline. 🙂

            A small chunk of government housing isn’t a bad idea, really. (Along with being ironically hilarious.) It could be rented out during the summer months to tourists as hotel alternatives.

            But yeah, I can’t see it passing and actually being done either. For oh so many reasons.

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        Personally, I agree with raising the non-metro per diem. В It’s not just the rent but food and transportation. В 

        I just wish our legislators were as clear-minded and empathetic towards the needs and value of others, as you are towards them.

        But, I guess you have to start somewhere — and as everyone at the capitol knows — when you’re repairing a safety net, you’ve got to start at the top . . .  

  5. BlueCat says:

    This does make sense but he should have to explain exactly why to his government hating base.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      They’re not trying to say legislators get enough money, because that’s bullshit. But McNulty should get up in front of his right wing base and say why.

      McNulty’s failure to do that will hurt him badly I think now that it’s public.

  6. ProgressiveCowgirl says:

    I know, I know, not exactly popular in this political climate, but at some point I’d like to see our state senators and state reps earn a full-time income. Right now the candidate pool on both sides is limited to the independently wealthy and people who have a second job that will work with their legislative and campaign schedules, or who can scrimp and save enough to live on a salary intended for a part-time job. Legislators may have been part-time once, but campaigning and constituent contact makes it more than a full-time job now. I think we’d have more competitive races and a better quality of candidates across the state if legislators received salaries sufficient to support a family.

    • droll says:

      Just for the record. I know it has to be done, but I don’t want to pay for it.

      That being said, I do tend to agree with the rest of what you say. Having a seven-month job is weird, we expect our legislators to be available 24/7 to listen to us and it would be nice if they could see their families. Or not. I don’t judge.

      All that being said, too, “popular” isn’t even the half of it. If K-12 gets a cut, legislators don’t get raises. It’s like the sky being blue. I mean, they let groups of kids come in all the time. Can legislators duck that well? I have doubts.

      • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

        I think that’s valuable enough to give them a full-time salary to let them do that rather than working nights and weekends to afford to feed their kids. I would rather my legislators be knocking doors to listen to people at night instead of rushing home to change and go to another job as some do. (But I do hear you, campaign ads and such are not the constituent’s responsibility.)

        I like to think investing in giving legislators more time and opening the possibility of a run for office to middle-class wage earners would result in a better legislature that would, perhaps, find a way to avoid cutting schools every year. I mean, no way a pay raise would pass right now; point taken. But still.

        • droll says:

          You work on campaigns.

          I’ve worked for legislators.

          Like how I don’t think of doing your job well as going for a promotion, but a career coach might. Either way, good for all involved.

          That’s all. Anyway, like I said, I agree. I was just “talking” about the reality of it.

          Incidentally, when I first wrote the comment I said something like it might result in not cutting school funding. I can’t remember why it didn’t make the cut. I don’t always edit, but when I do, it’s with liquor. 🙂

  7. dmindgo says:

    I think we’re missing something here, in the post and discussion.  The issue to me is how to pay for it.  Is it coming out of increased revenues?  If the revenues decrease again then the pay should decrease as well.  This is just another manifestation of the problem with TABOR.  It automatically ratchets down but not up.  This increase depends on general revenues but doesn’t have a formula tied to them and it should.

    • DavidThi808 says:

      That I think its impact on the general fund is not an issue. The question is do we get better representation from this minuscule investment. And I think the answer to that is pretty clearly yes.

      • Diogenesdemar says:


        And I think the answer to that is pretty clearly yes.

        than public educators, huh?

        (I personally don’t think such a patently ridiculous statement should be counted towards your post total.  The short screed from Droll’s puppy was far more intelligent.

        But it does lead me to wonder whether an infinite number of monkeys, pounding away on an infinite number of computers, could ever produce in excess of 23,000 posts on this site?)

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