Democratic Reps. Les Gara from Anchorage, and Scott Kawasaki from Fairbanks, have gotten a lot of attention recently for opposing a proposed pay raise for Gov. Sean Parnell, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, and the 14 commissioners in Parnell’s cabinet. The publicity has had an impact. On Saturday, Parnell announced that he would not accept the pay raise that would have jumped his salary from $145,000 to $154,644 by fiscal year 2015.
However, Parnell supports the other pay raises, which include bumping the lieutenant governor’s salary from $115,000 to $122,649 by 2015 and commissioners from $136,350 to $149,796.24 by 2015.
“The proposed increases are consistent with increases received by the majority of state employees,” the state commission that recommended the salaries wrote. Indeed, dozens of state works and at least 40, if not more, members of unions working for the Municipality of Anchorage make significantly more money than either the commissioners or the governor.
Parnell’s announcement hasn’t dampened Gara and Kawasaki’s enthusiasm to pass a bill next legislative session that would deny the others the raise. On Tuesday, Gara sent out an email to all 60 legislators, looking for additional sponsors.
Unless the legislature acts, raises will take place automatically, a procedure that Gara and Kawasaki both voted for in 2008, when they also voted to double legislative salaries from $24,012 a year to $50,400.
Since the legislative raise took place, legislators who live outside of Juneau get paid about $238 in per diem a day for the 90 day session, and for any days beyond the regular session. In 2012, the maximum per diem was $24,439. This is on top of their salaries.
In addition to their salaries and per diems, each legislator gets money to travel for state business and House members get $16,000 a year and each senator $20,000. Ostensibly, this money was to be used for office expenses. However, until recently, legislators could pocket the money to use as income if they chose to do so. (It should be noted that in 2012, Gara only used $8,000 of his allotted funds.)
Neither commissioners nor the legislators have to pay any monthly premium for what’s considered today to be “Cadillac” insurance.
Most legislators do work between legislative sessions. Last session, however, Kawasaki didn’t want to work between sessions, nor do all of them want to stay when a special session is called. Last session, for instance, Kawasaki asked if he could be excused from the call of the House from the time the legislature was set to gavel out in mid-April until the time they are back in session next January. He was told by House leadership that he couldn’t.
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org
Clarification: Gara and Kawasaki voted against the final bill to establish a salary commission.