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AZ legislators deserve a pay increase after 20 years

Posted by on | January 25, 2018 | No Comments

Several states have tied legislative salaries to median household income, allowing for automatic, gradual increases

Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts blandly describes herself as “a wife and mother…who loves all things Arizona….” What she neglects to mention is her contempt for Arizona’s state legislators who are among the lowest paid in the nation. She writes three columns a week and presumably gets paid for a full week‘s work. Legislators work full time during the session and serve constituents throughout the year. They also have to be ready to be called back into special session at the whim of the governor. They have not had a pay increase since 1998. It’s a good bet Roberts has.

Roberts, who thinks $24,000 a year is adequate compensation for those we elect and entrust with writing Arizona’s laws, is now hammering state Rep. Bob Thorpe (R-LD 6) for sponsoring two salary related bills — bringing them into the realm of reality in a state where increases of their paltry wages have been denied by voters for the last twenty years. Thorpe realistically proposes to tie future raises to the salaries of supervisors from counties of 500,000+ residents.

Rep. Thorpe also hopes to tie per diem to  the federal reimbursement rate –– raising the daily expense rate for out of Maricopa County legislators from $60 a day to $130. Those who are elected within Maricopa County would see a modest $7 increase per diem

Although today’s rampant political correctness constrains Laurie Roberts from referring to state lawmakers as “90 dwarfs” as former Arizona Republic columnist David Leibowitz frequently did, Roberts disparages the Flagstaff representative as “The Thorpedo,” for running the two bills: HCR 2016 and HB 2275.

Low pay restricts who can realistically serve  in the legislature, since a family could not subsist on $24,000. Few employers can or will allow citizen legislators to take months off work every year and travel to the state capital, which is why retirees, housewives or those with ample financial resources dominate the chambers. Juxtaposed against the rate of inflation, the current salary has decreased.

In Feb. 2013, we wrote AZ legislature: It’s not a part-time job. Responding to the demands of the job has become increasingly complex. Arizona is a large state with diverse issues.

The Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, covering first responders, correctional officers and elected officials has expanded its use of outside consultants by hiring a media relations and crisis communications contractor. And what a surprise to read that legislative basher David Leibowitz was awarded the lucrative $72,000 contact. How often will the word “dwarf” slip out of his mouth now that this state retirement system is paying him? We’re betting it’s been excised from his venomous vocabulary.

Laurie Roberts’ own employer ran this 2017 news report citing a national study finding the state’s retirement system ranks as one of the worst performing in the country, but pays the highest management fees. Perhaps that’s where she should direct her misplaced wrath.

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