Legislator’s salary increase proposal needs further scrutiny [UPDATED]Published 9:25am Friday, March 22, 2013 Updated 11:37am Friday, March 22, 2013
Minnesota State Law has established a Compensation Council to make recommendations for the salary of State Legislators. This panel has now recommended that the “salaries” for legislators go from the current $31,140 to $40,890 by 2015. Council member Bob Schroeder, a former chief of staff for Gov. Pawlenty, speaks in support of this increase.
Being the salaries have not been increased since 1998, such a move may seem to contain some merit. However, there is much more to the compensation of these legislators than the so called “salary.”
Consider: House members can receive $66 and Senate members can receive $86 for each day of the regular legislative session. These per diems can be claimed 7 days a week, even if members are not at work. The per diems payments require no receipts.
And to top it off, these per diems count toward the pensions of legislators.
Then they receive a 6 percent employer contribution toward their pensions. So how are these per diem payments not a part of the “salary” of legislators already?
Legislators also receive health care benefits, just like regular, full-time State employees who work year around.
But unlike all other State employees, retired legislators can go on and off the state insurance plan as they choose, so as to have major health care expense paid by the State (think taxpayers) and then go off the health plan when they do not need it(think not paying premiums). Other reimbursements are paid to legislators for mileage and lodging.
Our legislators need to be much more forthright, open, and yes, truthful, about the total compensation that they receive.
Stop hiding behind back door payments for per diems and earning pension benefits on these per diems, which can be claimed with no evidence of even doing any work to earn them.
The answer to the question of “What are our State Legislators paid”, is indeed very unclear, but perhaps that was the intent of those who made it such.
So the Compensation Council needs to take a much broader, a more accurate assessment, of the total compensation of State legislators than is presently the case.