Should Arizona Legislators Get Paid More?

I'm taking an unpopular position on elected official pay!

Yes, I know this will not be popular - but Arizona state legislators (and by the way the Governor) are grossly underpaid for their services to the citizens of the state.  Annual salary is $24,000.  (By the way this is minimum wage in Arizona) Yes the legislature is only in session a little more than 5 months a year.  But most legislators use the rest of the year to meet with their constituents, attend various seminars, conventions, and public workshops on issues such as water rights, criminal justice reform, environmental rules.  They do not get paid for their time when the legislature is not in session.

There is per diem pay, a daily living allowance when the legislature is in session, is $60 per day for those legislators living outside of Maricopa County such as tour LD14 senator and representatives.  From this and salary you have to pay for some sort of lodging in the Phoenix area as well as food and transportation costs to and from the capitol.

Sen. Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City) has filed bill SB 1461 that would increase per diem for rural legislators.  I support this concept although it really doesn't solve the problem.

There is a rather famous statement - you get what you paid for.  If we want smart, ethical, informed, conscientious elected officials we need to pay them a living wage.  Because of the low pay we miss out on getting candidates with families and jobs running for office.  How can you justify giving up your job to get $24,000 each year to be in the legislature?  For rural districts like LD14 it will cost your elected representatives more money than they make in salary to live in Phoenix for six months a year and commute back to the district on a regular basis.

Senator Gowan likes to talk about our "citizen legislators" but it really is a conceit.  The reality is that retirees, like myself, or those with other independent income or a two income family, can easily serve.  Others pay a huge price in order and often sacrifice to represent us.

Unfortunately, the Arizona constitution requires that any salary increase be put to the voters.  The voters have spoken with consistency over the last 40 some years, routinely voting down salary increases.

The increase in per diem is a work around the inability to get pay increases.  I would rather that we get serious about paying elected officials a real salary.

The Herald/Review editorial of 2/13/2020 said "Legislators should not have to pay from their own pocket to serve the public interest.  In light of the lack of support to a ballot initiative raising their annual salary, we support Borrelli's bill for a higher per diem rate."


Posted in Ideas/Opinion, Issues, State & Local Govt..

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