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Fri, Oct. 18

Friday Catchall: Giving yourself a raise; MVD’s pesky $32 fee

Republican and Democrat lawmakers finally found a spending proposal they can agree on: Tripling the allowance lawmakers get for coming to the Capitol. Pictured from left are Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, Sen. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, and Sen. David Livingston, R-Peoria. (Capitol Media Services file photos)

Republican and Democrat lawmakers finally found a spending proposal they can agree on: Tripling the allowance lawmakers get for coming to the Capitol. Pictured from left are Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, Sen. Rick Gray, R-Sun City, and Sen. David Livingston, R-Peoria. (Capitol Media Services file photos)

The Friday Catchall:

• LAWMAKER PAY — Upon hearing our legislators are giving themselves a raise, two things sound a little hinky.

First, let’s establish that our state lawmakers have not received a bump up in salary since 1998, and their per diem (daily allowance for expenses) has not increased since 1984.

Respectively, they are set at $24,000 per year, and $60 a day (rural) and $35 a day (metro) for the first 120 days of the session. If the session goes past 120 days, as it has this year, the per diem drops to $20 (rural) and $10 (metro) for out-of-pocket expenses.

And many senators and representatives, including our own Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott, say it costs them dearly to serve — noting that the $24,000 a year salary, in today’s dollars is worth only $17,000.

I get it.

While it is a part-time job, it does not come cheap or free — nor should it. Unfortunately for legislators, past proposals to raise the salary to $30,000 and $36,000 were defeated by voters — the ultimate arbiters in this.

Here’s the rub: Lawmakers have the power (with a signature by the governor, of course) to raise the per diem, without voter approval.

A proposal floated this week appears to have support to raise the per diem to the federal allowance of $185 per day ($129 for lodging and $56 for meals) for those who live outside the metro areas. The metro folks would get half, or just less than $93 a day.

I don’t begrudge them fair pay, even call it a working wage. What I don’t like is the appearance of an end-run, doing it themselves.

The other thing that sounds suspect is the metro wage. Even with increases in the price of gasoline, half of the federal allowance is still too steep for someone who merely drives to work (they get to go home each night).

Maybe the public would care more if the lawmakers would stop debating frivolous bills such as making lemonade the state drink, and letting transportation officials raise the vehicle registration fee $32, instead of the agreed upon $18. Maybe focus on education funding (not just for teachers) and the disparity between district and charter schools (both are public but not treated the same).

By the way, $185 times 120 days is $22,200 — almost the same as their salary; that’s a heck of a raise!

• RURAL AZ — If the per diem debate favors rural, we also have Gov. Doug Ducey lauding his support for rural Arizona.

“The fiscally conservative, balanced budget makes significant investments in rural Arizona, helping communities across our state thrive,” his office stated Thursday in a news release about the yet-approved state budget. Examples include:

• $14.2 million for rural community colleges;

• $1 million for prenatal equipment at hospitals;

• $3 million to expand broadband internet services;

• $1 million for forestry hazardous vegetation removal to help prevent wildfires and doubling (to $20 million) money available to reimburse fire districts for their work to combat wildfires.

There’s a lot more. Still, what about how we all paid more in state taxes this year? I’m told that may be in the budget too. They have to pass it, before we know what made it and what did not. (Heard that before.)

• GAS TAX — We’re told this is the beginning of the summer travel season. And, while the prices at the pump will be going higher (as they always do), special interests (in this case, the Americans for Prosperity-Arizona) urge Congress to “prioritize financing on roads and bridges … and reject increases to the federal gas tax.”

Sound good? They also toss kudos to the Arizona Legislature for rejecting a state increase to the gas tax.

Yea!!! Wait. It’s the gas tax that would be paid by all motorists (even visitors/tourists) that would supplant MVD’s $32 fee.

You cannot believe everything you read, or what you read is not always what it seems.

• THIS WEEKEND — With barbecue grills ablaze, don’t forget to take a moment to reflect on what we are celebrating, namely that our nation’s citizen soldiers — men and women — have given their lives in the line of duty defending the USA.

• PICK OF THE WEEK(Proving there’s always something good to do in the Prescott area that’s cheap or free): Arizona Downs heralds the return of live horseracing, beginning today, May 24, at the track on the northeast side of Prescott Valley (Highway 89A). Visit arizonadowns.com.

Tim Wiederaenders is the senior news editor for The Daily Courier and 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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