Tuesday, March 13, 2007

SC Times per diem LTE

Joan, from Joan on Government, has a LTE in the SC Times today, discussing the backdoor pay increase for our legislators.
It caps the per diem at $96 (up from $66 per day). For those living more than 50
miles from the Capitol, the resolution gives them up to $1,200 per month for
housing, up from $900. They also can receive a telecommunications reimbursement
at up to $125 per month.

This is the first I have heard of the telecommunications reimbursement. While I do believe that our legislators are under-compensated, I would rather see actual compensation increase versus an un-taxed per diem.

This issue will continue to haunt Democrats as time goes on, the GOP will use this for campaign lit fodder in 2008 and 2010.

It's frustrating for a progressive living in a conservative district. Issues like this will make it tough in swing and traditionally "red" districts in the coming elections.

Beyond the political ramifications of the per diem increases, it wasn't the right thing to do and it was botched.

I think it's easy for Twin Cities Democrats to propose such measures with no structure for accountability, their seats are safe. I could possibly support these increases IF receipts had to be produced, much like the situations in my non-profit higher education work.

I got compensated $35 a day for Washington DC meals!

What can you eat for $96 a day in St Paul? I know I'll be asking Senator Dille that question, who failed to show up to vote on the measure.

Sadly, the procedure, the way it came about was botched.
If not for Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, stirring things up a bit by holding a news conference and attacking the process, this may not have been brought to a floor vote.

For me, there was a big problem with the way Pogemiller used what I would consider arm twisting at best to get the maximum number of “yes” votes.

Those voting “yes” on the increase would be paid the allowance without further action, but those voting against it would not be paid the daily allowance without a written request.

New party, old methods

You see, this kind of tactic was something I was used to seeing in the House under the leadership of Rep. Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon. Pogemiller proved to me that Democrats aren’t any better.

This is the kind of thing that turns me off from politics.

This is the sentiment out here from a lot of Democrats. It is my sincere hope that this will be a non-issue as time goes on. However, when I get weekly email updates from some of my local legislators and they take Democrats to task over tax increases and feed the "tax and spend" label to more and more constituents, it creates more work for progressives.

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