Another Day Of Awful Per Diem Pay Raise Press

Here’s a roundup of the extensive statewide coverage today of the General Assembly’s apparent intention to plow ahead with a 22% hike in the daily per diem rate for legislators from outside the Denver metro area. Beginning with the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby:

Even though rural lawmakers would get about $4,000 more a year, legislative leaders from both sides of the political aisle said an effort to increase their per diem pay is not a pay raise…

The increase was hidden in a routine appropriations bill [Pols emphasis] to fund the Legislature next year. While it includes an increase for 41 of the state’s 100 lawmakers, there is no pay raise for legislative workers.

Morse said it would take a separate bill to delay the increase, then added he wouldn’t approve allowing such a bill to be introduced…

Western Slope lawmakers who voted for the increase and would receive it next year include Reps. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, and Don Coram, R-Montrose. Rep. Roger Wilson, D-Glenwood Springs, also supports it, but he’s not running for re-election.

“I think we should get a per diem increase, I don’t think we should get a pay raise. It depends on what you want to call it. I call it a per diem raise,” Scott said. [Pols emphasis]

The Durango Herald’s Joe Hanel:

“The policy is the right policy. This has been misrepresented and misreported from the beginning,” said McNulty, who sponsored HB 1301 but is not eligible for the raise. “This is a per diem to reimburse members for their living expenses and other related expenses when they’re here in Denver. When this is accurately reported, I think people will understand.”

…But the arguments did not impress Matthew Keefauver, a Cortez city councilor and teacher at Kemper Elementary School. Keefauver testified last summer in a lawsuit against the state for chronically underfunding public schools. He moonlights at a Cortez garden center to earn money to pay for classroom supplies and field trips.

“I think it is ironic that legislators think they can give themselves a raise when teachers are doing more with less,” Keefauver said.

He expects to have to buy paper for his classroom soon, when the reams that parents bought last fall run out. [Pols emphasis]

And the Pueblo Chieftain’s Patrick Malone, who broke the original story:

Rep. Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, disagreed.

“We’ve had significant cuts in K-12 and higher education, entire wings of the state hospital in Pueblo have closed, and leadership is putting our chin out front, putting us first,” Pace said. “I think the perception among constituents is that we’re in tough economic times, and everyone needs to take their lumps.”

…Rep. Ed Vigil, D-Fort Garland, voted against the spending bill that would pay for the per-diem increase. He had expressed interest in carrying a late bill to postpone the increase, but with McNulty and Morse lined up against it, any request would be rejected,

“Leadership has indicated that this per-diem increase is probably going to happen anyway, so I think it’s really out of our hands at this point,” Vigil said.

He said he fears a bill request would not be authorized and could serve to jeopardize other legislation that he is carrying. [Pols emphasis]

In the Denver paper today, reporter Lynn Bartels quotes Rep. Claire Levy’s objection to raising per diem, the insistence she encountered from “some members” of the Joint Budget Committee that no state employees, not even the very lowest-paid among workers who haven’t seen a raise in four years, could receive any kind of salary increase. After all, Rep. Levy says, raising per diem “effectively is an increase in pay.” CD-3 candidate Sal Pace and Rep. Levy illustrate what could have been a potent political opportunity for Democrats, against Republicans who consistently vote to cut or freeze the pay of others, but just raised their own.

But any more news cycles like this, and Democrats can consider that opportunity squandered!

Folks, it’s not our job to bob our heads like sycophants as acts of manifest political cluelessness are carried out by members of either, or as the case may be both parties. Particularly frustrating in this situation is our agreement that elected officials in Colorado are significantly underpaid. But in an environment of budget cuts–after years of budget cuts–layoffs, and effective pay freezes, the timing of this decision to hike legislative per diem, especially after the way Speaker Frank McNulty mishandled the bill in the House, is an absolute political nightmare. And no amount of tough-guy bravado from John Morse, or even the odd and rare expenditure of political capital from Gov. John Hickenlooper himself, is going to change that.

Do you see the press you are getting? We are not making it up. Ignore it at your peril.


30 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. breatheandreboot says:

    I’ve heard it called a tax increase by the GOP. IOKIYAR? (That’s rhetorical.)

  2. DavidThi808 says:

    …that is wrong now for two reasons. First off, those at the top should come last on returning pay to fair levels as we exit the Bush Recession. Legislators may be paid less than anyone else, but they are still at the top of the food chain.

    Second it’s politically tone deaf. You don’t explain why you have to cut others yet fund a more luxurious lifestyle for those doing the cutting. That makes the legislators look like Wall St executives.

    • breatheandreboot says:

      Maybe it’s your definition of the word “top” in this context that’s throwing me.

      • DavidThi808 says:

        They set the laws and allocate the funds that creates the state jobs and pays the employees in those jobs.

          • Ralphie says:

            have gotten more expensive for Real People too.

            The difference between legislators and Real People is that Real People can’t just magically grant themselves more of someone else’s money to cover their increased costs.

            This is about as politically tone-deaf a piece of legislation as any I have ever seen.

            • breatheandreboot says:

              And if they are paid the same as the poorest citizen, they are making far too much.

              I’m still not sure what “top of the food chain” means in DavidThi808’s context and I’m not sure your reasoning is the best way to determine compensation.

              I didn’t say anything at all about the timing or tone, but thanks for your $.02.

              • thiokuutoo says:

                It is so nice to hear someone standing up for the farmer leaving his (HIS) plow in the field to ride the mule to town to do the people’s business and then ride back to finish the furrow. The farmer does not expect to be paid for his citizenship duties. Why that is taking money out of the hands of the groveling poor.

                No mind that today’s legislators take 5 months out of their lives to do the people’s business. No mind that the rest of the year the people’s business will take about 30 hours each week to mind to, and more if she is on committee.

                The idiocy of the myth is that we no longer live in 1778, with a few hundred people to represent. It is 2012, I realize there are many who wish it was 1200, with modern issues, modern people, and fighting the few that are trying to take the dirt road to 1200.

                All the legislators need a doubling of their pay. But, the poison that has been spread by the few is there for both parties. Too bad. And a shame.

                Thank you for standing up for the myth.

                • DavidThi808 says:

                  Most of us (including me) agree that legislators should be paid more. The issue is that the people setting the funding levels, who have been cutting for the last couple of years, should not make themselves the one exception who gets more.

                  They need to lead by example. Both because it’s the right thing to do and the politically smart thing to do.

            • Ralphie says:

              A positive vote on this bill is a big political problem for hypocrite so-called “conservatives” like Ray Scott who oppose spending except when they can pocket the fruits of it.

              I summed up the political problem in a couple of sentences.  It’s quite simple enough for the average voter to understand.

              I aim to keep the pressure on.

              • breatheandreboot says:

                Exposing hypocrisy was a given for me. Yesterday I was even thinking about how there should be less leadership and more election games during the session.

                Demeaning all legislators was a direction I hadn’t even considered. Clever, clever!

                • Ralphie says:

                  A number of them voted against this stinker of a bill.

                  More facts, less hyperbole.  You’ll get the hang of it someday.

                • Aristotle says:

                  Is there a single legislator, Democrat or Republican, Senator or Representative, who isn’t already doing well in their non-legislative career?

                  We’ll make the definition of “doing well” pretty simple. Is there anyone who is doing legislative work to help pay the bills, sort of the way the Cortez elementary teacher in the Durango Herald story is doing garden center work to pay for school supplies?

                  • breatheandreboot says:

                    I see everyone whining about how shit all legislators are, how they don’t get anyone but the rich. Hm. How to change!

                    You guys are confusing policy and politics. That’s fine, just don’t be surprised when equal rights and birth control are caught in the same web.

                    “Living on the outskirts, it’s difficult for people with young families to be able to afford to live up here and serve in the legislature,” Rep. Keith Swerdfeger, R-Pueblo West, told the Chieftain.

                    He’s right. This isn’t about the people currently serving, it’s about the people you’d like to see serving. Do you have kids? Do you struggle? Could you afford to serve? Do you not consider any service you could provide to be worth something to the state? Can you really not see how these things are connected?

                    So no, I cannot answer your question because I’m no longer that familiar with the legislature. What I can tell you is that I can think of people in the last ten years who did count on their monthly checks. Romanoff taught during the off session, but was dependent on his full time job during. The legislature was better for having him. That guy I hated from Colorado Springs, Cloer? He needed it. Fran Coleman did. I could go on, but it misses the point.

                    (The quote -

                    • sxp151 says:

                      Swerdfeger is running a $25 million company.

                      Cloer quit to work for Lamborn at $50,000 a year.

                      Coleman started a lobbying and consulting business.

                      And we all know about Romanoff’s career aspirations.

                      These are people who are either wealthy and want the tax code changed to make them wealthier, or who get into the government as a stepping stone to something more lucrative, as I said in the other thread. It’s basically like an internship program for aspiring fat cats. If you want it changed, change the process of getting elected, not the conditions afterwards, because that’s not what’s motivating any of these people to run for State Rep.

    • Konola says:

      My favorite quote from the Ashby article was

      Western Slope lawmakers who voted for the increase and would receive it next year include Reps. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, and Don Coram, R-Montrose. Rep. Roger Wilson, D-Glenwood Springs, also supports it, but he’s not running for re-election.

      “I think we should get a per diem increase, I don’t think we should get a pay raise. It depends on what you want to call it. I call it a per diem raise,” Scott said. “It’s $3,500 to $4,500 for a one-bedroom apartment here. The per diem, there’s no way it would cover it. I’m not going to live in a rat hole at home, and I’m not going to do it here. And I don’t eat steaks every night, either.”

  3. Ray Springfield says:

    But the business opportunities are vast.They shouldn’t do this. There are very few Democrats left.Most seek office for ego in power, or access to money.

    No need to talk about the R’s.They are at least honest in robbing the middle to serve the rich.

  4. Whiskey Lima Juliet says:

    If no one has heard, America is in the worse recession / depression since the Great Depression. I am sorry the lawmakers have to foot the bill to get to their job like millions of other Americans who make $30K per year FOR A FULL YEAR OF WORK!!! Lawmakers are a bunch of whinning children.  

    Can’t find an apartment for $4000 a month n Denver?  That is a flat out lie and shame on ANYONE saying so.

    In addition, every legislator I know is making money in other jobs. Many are lawyers who receive their full pay from the firm because it behooves the firm to have a legislator on staff. Could you provide me the name of legislator that “actually” lives on $30K? PLUS, it is $30K plus per diem, plus expenses, plus free alcohol from lobbyist. They also have their name in the paper and cash in on their “service” once their time is complete.

    If you want to pay someone’s way to work, I say pay the teachers.

    Please don’t expect me to fall for, “Why us poor legislators need money to drive to work” routine. Honestly….. have any legislators read the comments from the people who vote? I guess not, but then why would you care about the people want? That would just be silly

  5. DCCO says:

    Clearly if we just paid them less we’d get more altruistic people in office.  Heck, let’s take this to a logical extreme and not pay them anything… then we’d get the best, most altruistic legislators, no? < /sarcasm>

    Seriously, you get what you pay for.  And if the salaries and per diems we offer our legislators make it impossible for an “average person” to run for office, don’t bitch and moan when our legislature is frequently comprised of wealthy, out of touch people.

    So many people are asking what current legislators actually rely on the $30k as a salary… Not many?  Maybe that’s because you’d have to be an idiot to run for this office at this pay level if you didn’t have another job to rely on.  

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