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Sun, July 21

Wiederaenders: No raise for you, lawmakers

The governor of Arizona has spoken, much to the chagrin of the state’s legislators.

No raise for you!

Lawmakers – on a 22-7 Senate vote and 37-23 in the House in the final days of the marathon, 2019 session – sent a bill to Gov. Doug Ducey seeking to boost their per diem (daily allowance) while in session from $60 to more than $190 (for legislators from outside of Maricopa County); those from the metro area would have gone from $35 to more than $92 per day.

“Arizona is the sixth largest state in terms of land area,” the governor wrote. “So for rural legislators and those representing areas outside of Maricopa County, there is a strong case to be made for ensuring we are appropriately recognizing what is required for them to be here at the state Capitol in Phoenix during session.”

One of the things, however, that soured Ducey on giving them the raise was the fact that the bill also boosted the daily allowance for lawmakers who live in Maricopa County.

As I stated in this space previously (in a Friday Catchall May 23, “Giving yourself a raise; MVD’s pesky $32 fee”), the metro lawmakers merely drive to work and get to go home each night.

Another problem was that the bill would have gone into effect this year, giving the benefit to the same lawmakers who voted for it. “Any change in the per diem rate should also be prospective, and apply to the next Legislature, which will be sworn in on Jan. 11, 2021, following the 2020 election,” the governor wrote.

It is a disappointment though.

Some lawmakers from rural areas give up a lot to be in the Legislature. It costs them personal time and money too – enough that they debate with themselves or their families how much longer they will serve.

The flip side is that public service was not meant to be a career. This is one of the reasons the legislators are subject to term limits.

Rural lawmakers deserve a level playing field when it comes to the sacrifices they have to make. Giving them an increase in salary or per diem is in order.

Just not so much, nor the way this bill would have done so.

On the plus side for the senators and representatives is that the governor is willing to talk further about this, he said Friday. “I am open to working with legislators on such a change next session.”

At the end of the day, some lawmakers were upset by the veto – saying that Ducey “could have done something like this that would have benefited the 90 members, that would have made working relationships better. This makes it more strained,” said Sen. David Livingston, R-Peoria.

I do not believe Livingston should worry about his relationship with the governor; instead, he needs to focus on his constituents.

It is the voters, after all, who should be approving or denying a raise for lawmakers. And that is something that voters have shot down twice previously.

The proposal that Ducey vetoed would have amounted to about $22,000 in per diem for a rural lawmaker, nearly equal to their salary of $24,000.

That’s a lot, when some people still are not feeling the effects of economic recovery; let’s say it is enough for voters to pick the alternative and proclaim, like in the TV comedy Seinfeld: “No soup for you!”

Tim Wiederaenders is the senior news editor for Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @TWieds_editor. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 2032, or twieds@prescottaz.com.

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