Legislation was filed yesterday to increase legislators' expense allowance by 50 PER CENT and to increase the number of people who get enhanced payments for special duties.
The argument is that there's been no increase in the allowance since 1997 and this merely reflects the cumulative effect of inflation.
This alibi would carry a bit more weight if the expense allowance were not a simple salary supplement. Indeed, you could always submit itemized statements for actual expenses up to the limit. Bottom line: legislators will get almost $5,000 more per year, going from $9,600 to $14,400 in the expense allowance, retroactive to the start of the session. This is on top of almost $600 in pay raises over the next two years, pushing salaries to near $15,000. And it doesn't include per diem payments for days at the Capitol (this payment is also getting bumped up for close-in lawmakers). When your legislator is madly patting himself on the back for his work on education this session, ask him/her if the teachers in his district are getting $5,400 in raises and if all of them make the $40,000 or so annually that legislators generally pull down in accumulated payments for their part-time work. (This sounds like a project for Jay Greene, to compute the hourly wage of a legislator, not forgetting to include the value of all those free meals and drinks.)
UPDATE: More fun with arithmetic. I took a look at pay records of employees in the general pay plan. An employee receiving the standard pay increase from the legislature every year has seen a 31 percent increase in pay, comparing 1997 wages with 2006 wages. That's a good bit less than 50 percent, seems like. Exactly what escalator did lawmakers use in devising this huge increase? And wages are taxable, where the expense allowances, I believe, are not.